Organisers downplay fears as 11 at Winter Olympics in hospital with Covid


Eleven people at the Winter Olympics are in hospital with Covid, Beijing 2022 officials have revealed, although none are in a life-threatening condition.

Organisers have also downplayed concerns that the virus is spreading within the ‘closed-looped’ system in Beijing, which completely separates Olympic personnel from the general public, despite a further nine athletes and 23 team officials testing positive in the last 24 hours.

The overall number of cases now stands at 232 since 23 January, leading to fears that some top athletes will miss out when the Games officially begin on Friday. However, Dr Brian McCloskey, chair of the medical expert panel for Beijing 2022, struck an upbeat note in front of the world’s media.

“The vast majority of people who have tested positive are well, a lot of them are asymptomatic,” said McCloskey. “There have been 11 people hospitalised, because they had a symptom but none of those are seriously ill in any way.”

Everyone travelling to Beijing, including athletes, coaches, team personnel and the media had to test negative twice before travelling, then again upon arrival at the airport. They also have to have daily PCR tests.

McCloskey said there were no signs of a spread within the closed loop, adding: “It’s early days to look at all the gene sequencing, but at present that’s not a problem we’re particularly worried about.”

“If we found evidence there was sustained community transmission, then we will activate our response plan, which then means more testing, tracing, isolating and a more aggressive approach to contact tracing.

“But we are nowhere near that level at present. But it is not about the numbers, it’s about the extent to which there might be spread within the closed loop.”

On Wednesday Sweden and Norway both confirmed they had two new cases each. So far none of Team GB’s 109 athletes, coaches and team officials here in Beijing have caught the virus.

The biggest name to test positive so far has been the American bobsledder Elana Meyers Taylor, who has won medals in the past three Olympics. On Tuesday she confirmed she was in an isolation hotel in Beijing but said: “I feel great, I feel like I could go out and train. That’s the most frustrating thing.”