What are the COVID rules at the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics?

Here's a look at the COVID-19 measures put in place for the Games.

February 04, 2022, 5:10 AM

For the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing, officials have established a series of rules to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

This will mark the second Olympics since the pandemic began, which will be held between Feb. 3 and Feb. 20. The Paralympic Games will follow from March 4 to March 13.

China has enforced strict measures to limit the spread of the virus within its borders and there will be no loosening of these restrictions when it comes to the Olympics.

This means no spectators aside from a few local fans, a closed loop system, a rigorous testing program and stringent measures for those who test positive.

ABC News took a closer look at some of the rules that have been established for the Games.

PHOTO: Medical staff sit at a table as Norwegian speed skaters take part in a practice session at the National Speed Skating Oval, Jan. 29, 2022, in Beijing.
Medical staff sit at a table as Norwegian speed skaters take part in a practice session at the National Speed Skating Oval, Jan. 29, 2022, in Beijing. Chinese authorities are making final preparations to try and ensure a successful Games amid the continuing COVID-19 pandemic.
Carl Court/Getty Images

Vaccinate or undergo quarantine

According to the Olympics playbook, all participants must be fully vaccinated at least 14 days before arriving in Beijing to avoid quarantine.

Only certain exceptions will be made if an athlete has a history of allergic reaction to a component of the vaccine or is using any immunosuppression medication.

Games officials also recommend that all participants receive a booster before traveling to China.

Anyone who is not vaccinated has to quarantine in Beijing for 21 days before being allowed in the closed loop system.

Regardless of vaccination status, all athletes and personnel must take two PCR tests at least 24 hours apart within 96 hours of their flight to China.

Closed loop system

Similar to Tokyo, Beijing has implemented a closed loop system in which athletes, coaches and their staff will undergo daily screening and testing.

Additionally, buses and trains designated for the Games will specifically move participants to the opening and closing ceremonies, training venues, competition venues, victory ceremonies and the Olympic Village, where most of the athletes are staying.

"This is to ensure there is no contact with the general public or anyone outside of the closed loop," according to the playbook.

PHOTO: A sign with lists COVID-19 countermeasures at a press center at an venue for the Beijing Olympics, Feb. 2, 2022, in Zhangjiakou, China.
A sign with lists COVID-19 countermeasures at a press center at an venue for the Beijing Olympics, Feb. 2, 2022, in Zhangjiakou, China.
Maja Hitij/Getty Images

Minimizing physical interaction

The playbook also offers guidance for how athletes can minimize contact with each other while in the closed loop system.

Officials recommend athletes avoid hugs and handshakes and stay away from enclosed spaces or large crowds.

Individuals are also required to keep 2 meters (6 feet) from athletes, and athletes must keep 1 meter (3 feet) from each other.

Mask-wearing will be enforced at all times except "when training, competing, eating, drinking, sleeping, when alone, or during interviews, stand-ups and live presentations," the playbook states.

Criteria for testing positive

Games officials said they are expecting more COVID-19 cases to emerge.

During a press conference last month, Dr. Brian McCloskey, chair of the Olympics medical expert panel, said the goal is "zero spread" not "zero cases."

Because of this, Beijing has adjusted its rules regarding the threshold for when someone is considered to be positive with a figure known as the cycle threshold (CT) value.

After a sample is collected, it is isolated and undergoes multiple amplification cycles in an effort to detect viral RNA, or genetic material.

PHOTO: Illustration
Beijing’s COVID Rules for the 2022 Winter Olympics
ABC News

The CT value is the number of cycles needed before RNA is found, at which point the machine stops working. The higher the number, the less infectious a person is considered.

Previously, participants had to meet a CT value of 40 to be considered positive for COVID-19. Now they will have to meet a standard of 35.

What happens when participants test positive?

Any athletes who test positive will immediately be removed from the Games and the Olympic Village.

Symptomatic participants will be taken to a designated hospital while those who are asymptomatic will be in an isolation facility.

Sick individuals will not be allowed back into the closed loop system until all symptoms clear and they test negative twice in a row with two tests taken 24 hours apart.

Few spectators

There will be very few spectators in the stands to watch the athletes compete in the Games.

No fans from other countries are allowed to attend and only spectators who are selected will be allowed to watch the events in person.

"In order to ensure the safety of all participants and spectators, it has been decided that tickets should not be sold anymore but be part of an adapted program that will invite groups of spectators to be present on site during the Games," according to an announcement released on Jan. 17.

PHOTO: A worker prepares to administer a COVID-19 test at the 2022 Winter Olympics, Feb. 2, 2022, in Beijing.
A worker prepares to administer a COVID-19 test at the 2022 Winter Olympics, Feb. 2, 2022, in Beijing.
Natacha Pisarenko/AP

Leaving China

All athletes and personnel will be transported to Beijing Capital International Airport using transportation services designated specifically for the Games.

Close contacts of anyone who has tested positive will be able to leave China as long as they test negative within the last 24 hours.

No more than 24 hours before leaving China, travelers will be required to fill out the online Customs Health Declaration form to show to airport officials and/or gate agents before boarding flights.

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