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Winter Olympics 2022: China eases Covid testing rules amid rise in cases

Organisers of the Beijing Winter Olympics have eased a Covid-19 testing requirement for participants, amid a growing number of cases in the capital. 

The new change makes it easier for participants arriving at the Games to be considered virus-free. 

Of more than 3,000 Olympic arrivals, 106 have tested positive for the virus since 4 January. 

Outside of the tournament’s closed-off premises, Beijing locals are facing harsher restrictions and new lockdowns.

Around two million residents in Beijing’s Fengtai district have been told to undergo testing, as a handful of locally transmitted cases were found earlier this week. 

Locals who bought over-the-counter treatments for fever or cough symptoms have also been told to do a test within three days of the purchase. 

Chinese officials are aiming to stamp out small outbreaks of the virus before the Games begin on 4 February, as Beijing continues its zero-Covid strategy.

But Games officials say they expect more cases to emerge, with Dr Brian McCloskey, the chair of the Beijing 2022 Olympics medical expert panel, telling a media briefing on Sunday that organisers’ aims were “zero spread” not “zero cases”.

He said the challenge lay in organisers detecting and isolating positive people quickly.

But in perhaps a concession to the the reality of the virus’ spread, Games officials on Tuesday introduced a slight relaxation in testing rules.

Participants will now have to meet a cycle threshold (CT) standard of 35, instead of 40, to count as being positive with the virus.

The higher the CT value, the less infectious a person is. China had initially opted for the higher measure of viral load, despite the 30-35 value being widely accepted elsewhere.

In a further relaxation, close contacts will also have their isolation time halved from 14 to seven days.

BBC

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