Is it safe to attend the Olympics?
“It would be a hard decision since going to the Olympics is a dream come true, but clearly, if there is a pandemic on top of the hacking of phones, I might think that not going is probably the best, but I think athletes should get a choice,” said sophomore Kayla Kutch.
According to the Associated Press, as part of China’s “Zero-Covid” policy, all athletes, officials, staff and journalists will be required to provide two negative tests before traveling to Beijing, another negative test at the airport before heading to their site and during the games, where PCR tests will be taken daily for every individual.
In addition, those who have recently tested positive are required to submit five negative tests to enter China. While there is no vaccine requirement, those who are unvaccinated must quarantine for 21 days.
“What China is trying to do right now is on an unbelievable scale,” said Dr. David Luesink, an assistant professor in the history department with specialization in modern China. “China is trying to have a zero-Covid policy in a city of 14 million people, and if they have the number of cases that Sacred Heart would have on a normal day, they will shut and lock down the city in a way that nowhere in America has seen during the pandemic.”
Even though this may be an issue for some, others are still optimistic about the games.
“As long as the necessary precautions are taken, then yes, I do believe they should go on as planned,” said sophomore Chris DiGangi.
For the 2020 Summer Games, Japan also had individuals self-isolate. However, they were allowed to leave after two weeks of quarantine. Conversely, China has been locked down for nearly two years.
According to the Associated Press, as of Jan. 13, “More than 20 million people are under lockdown in China with some barred from leaving their homes. Authorities have reported a total of 104,379 cases since the pandemic began and 4,636 deaths, a figure that hasn’t changed in months.”
However, with the Omnicron-variant in effect, it may be even more difficult for China to contain the virus and their “Zero-Covid” policy during the games.
Dr. Maura Iversen, Dean of the College of Health Professions said, “The Omicron variant has a high transmission rate and short exposure period, making attempts to control the spread of the disease very challenging. The concept of providing a ‘safe area’ for athletes, their support staff, and media by separating them from the general public may not be sufficient to contain spread.”
“China’s approach to containing Covid through the implementation of lockdowns and closed borders has reduced their population’s national immunity,” said Iversen. “Although China’s rates of spread and Covid-related deaths are significantly lower than other countries at present, the risk of exposure with such a tremendous influx of global travelers looms large.”
As part of the “Zero-Covid” policy, China is also requiring all international Olympic attendees to log into a health monitoring system app at least 14 days before their departure.
According to the International Olympic Committee (IOC), the app allows users to submit required health information daily and includes chat features, file transfers, weather updates, tourism recommendations, and GPS navigation.
However, on Jan. 18, the Associated Press reported that the app has come into question after concerns from Citizen Lab, an internet watchdog group, said that the app has flawed encryption and is vulnerable to being hacked, which could expose users’ sensitive data.
Not only are Covid-19 and security concerns affecting the Beijing games, on Dec. 6, 2020, the Associated Press reported that the U.S. has said it will stage a diplomatic boycott of the upcoming Winter Games in protest over China’s detention of more than one million Uyghur Muslims in the northwestern region of Xinjiang along with other human rights concerns.
“There is not a huge cost to China as they maintain the claim that there is no clear diplomatic position of the Olympics,” said Luesink. “To them the bigger story is how they control Covid and the performance of the athletes.”
The 2022 Winter Olympic Games will be taking place in Beijing Feb. 4 – Feb. 20.