Beijing requiring new arrivals to get COVID-19 tests ahead of Olympics

Associated Press / Mark Schiefelbein

China is requiring that all travelers headed to Beijing receive a COVID-19 test within 72 hours of arrival as it tightens restrictions ahead of the Winter Olympics.

The new rule will take effect on Jan. 22 and last through the end of March, Reuters reported on Sunday, citing state media. The Beijing Olympics are slated to begin on Feb. 4.

China already mandates that all travelers entering the capital city are tested for COVID-19 within 48 hours of their departure for Beijing, according to Reuters. They are also required to have a green code on the city’s health tracking app.

News of the new testing protocol came one day after reports surfaced that Beijing had identified its first locally transmitted case of the highly transmissible COVID-19 omicron variant, which has in part driven a surge of coronavirus cases in countries across the globe. The patient, who had not left Beijing since the beginning of this year, visited a number of malls and restaurants in the past two weeks, according to Reuters.

Dozens of omicron cases have already been detected in Tianjin, which is about 60 miles away from Beijing.

At least five Chinese provinces have detected omicron cases, according to Reuters, but China has not disclosed how many cases of the variant it has identified overall. 

Authorities are taking additional precautions to tame the spread of COVID-19 during the Winter Olympics, including holding the event inside a “closed loop” in Beijing and the Hebei province, according to Reuters. The “closed loop” ensures that athletes and other individuals working for the Olympics are separated from the general public.

China also tightened COVID-19 restrictions for the Winter Olympics last week, barring airline passengers entering the country through a third point from proceeding. Beijing is also planning to begin testing for children attending international schools.

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