China mandates 3-day Olympic torch relay amid virus concerns

China is limiting the torch relay for the Winter Olympics to solely three days amid coronavirus worries

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

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

Beijing’s deputy sports activities director, Yang Haibin, stated security was the “high precedence,” with the pandemic, venue preparations and the potential of 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.

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

China says solely chosen spectators might 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 Games comes simply days after the beginning of the Lunar New Year vacation, China’s largest annual celebration when tens of millions historically journey to their hometowns for household reunions. For the second 12 months, the federal government has suggested these dwelling away from residence to remain put, and prepare and airplane journey has been curtailed.

Participants within the torch rally will bear well being screens and be rigorously monitored, beginning 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 News Age infoncy reported.

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Outside of Beijing, a number of million folks stay beneath lockdown as a part of China’s “zero-tolerance” method to coping with the pandemic that has been credited with stopping outbreaks on the scale of the U.S. and different international locations.

Numbers of recent circumstances have dropped considerably in current days amid strict adherence to masking, journey restrictions and faculty closures, together with a vaccination charge that now tops 85%. Some medical specialists fear an absence of publicity to the virus might hurt the Chinese inhabitants’s capacity 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 world journey forward of its internet hosting of that 12 months’s Summer 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 Games have been beset by comparable political controversies, alongside medical concerns.

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Six weeks in the past, the United States, Britain and several other allies stated they might not ship dignitaries to attend the Games as a protest in opposition to human rights abuses by the Communist Party regime.

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

The National Hockey League cited uncertainty brought on by 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 saying groups to China, citing the identical virus concerns raised when the community pulled most of its broadcasters from the Tokyo Games.

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More AP Winter Olympics: https://apnews.com/hub/winter-olympics and https://twitter.com/AP—Sports

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