China mandates 3-day Olympic torch relay amid virus issues | Well being

BEIJING (AP) — China is limiting the torch relay for the Winter Olympics to solely three days amid coronavirus worries, organizers stated Friday.

The flame will likely be displayed solely in enclosed venues which might be deemed “protected and controllable,” in keeping with officers.

No public transit routes could be disturbed and regular life would proceed for the 20 million residents of the capital, the place a handful of latest COVID-19 circumstances have been recorded over latest days.

Beijing’s deputy sports activities director, Yang Haibin, stated security was the “prime precedence,” with the pandemic, venue preparations and the potential for forest fires in Beijing’s chilly, dry local weather all factored in.

The relay will run from Feb. 2-4, taking within the three competitors areas of downtown Beijing, the suburb of Yanqing, and Zhangjiakou within the neighboring province of Hebei.

The Video games have already been impacted on a scale much like that skilled by Tokyo throughout final 12 months’s Summer season Olympics.

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China says solely chosen spectators will likely be allowed to attend the occasions, and Olympic athletes, officers, employees and journalists are required to remain inside a bubble that retains them from contact with most of the people.

The opening of the Video games comes simply days after the beginning of the Lunar New Yr vacation, China’s greatest annual celebration when hundreds of thousands historically journey to their hometowns for household reunions. For the second 12 months, the federal government has suggested these residing away from residence to remain put, and practice and airplane journey has been curtailed.

Contributors within the torch rally will bear well being screens and be fastidiously monitored, ranging from two weeks earlier than the occasion begins, stated Xu Zhijun, deputy head of the organizing committee.

Beijing reported its first native omicron an infection on Jan. 15, and 11 circumstances had been confirmed within the capital as of Thursday afternoon, the official Xinhua Information Company reported.

Outdoors of Beijing, a number of million individuals stay underneath lockdown as a part of China’s “zero-tolerance” method to coping with the pandemic that has been credited with stopping outbreaks on the dimensions of the U.S. and different nations.

Numbers of latest circumstances have dropped considerably in latest days amid strict adherence to masking, journey restrictions and faculty closures, together with a vaccination fee that now tops 85%. Some medical specialists fear a scarcity of publicity to the virus might hurt the Chinese language inhabitants’s potential to cope with future waves of an infection.

The scaled-down torch relay is a far cry from 2008, when Beijing despatched the Olympic icon on a worldwide journey forward of its internet hosting of that 12 months’s Summer season Video games. The relay drew protesters in opposition to China’s human rights violations and insurance policies in Tibet, Xinjiang and elsewhere, resulting in violent confrontations and the cancellation of some abroad levels.

The Winter Video games have been beset by comparable political controversies, alongside medical concerns.

Six weeks in the past, the USA, Britain and a number of other allies stated they might not ship dignitaries to attend the Video games as a protest in opposition to human rights abuses by the Communist Occasion regime.

Athletes have been threatened by the organizing committee with “sure punishments” for saying or doing something that will offend their Chinese language hosts, whereas a number of delegations urged anybody headed to Beijing to take “burner” telephones as an alternative of their private units due to issues their private data may very well be compromised.

The Nationwide Hockey League cited uncertainty attributable to the pandemic to carry again all of its gamers from the Olympic event.

And earlier this week, American broadcaster NBC stated it received’t be sending asserting groups to China, citing the identical virus issues raised when the community pulled most of its broadcasters from the Tokyo Video games.

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