The Chinese government is implementing stricter measures in containing outbreaks of COVID-19 across the country that challenges its "zero-tolerance" as the scheduled Winter Olympics is fast approaching.
In just three weeks, the games will officially open and China's national pride is at stake in hosting the international sporting event which puts more pressure on Beijing in managing the spread of the coronavirus in the coming days.
Six cities with reported COVID-19 outbreaks have already been locked down. They include the port city of Tianjin, home to 14 million people, and a neighboring city of Beijing, the host city of the Winter Olympics set on February 4.
Most access to Tianjin was closed down due to a reported outbreak of the highly contagious omicron variant. The government has suspended public transportation such as train, taxi, bus, and ride-hailing services to limit mobility and spread of the disease, as per Reuters.
In Xi'an, it was reported that residents are forced to stay at home indefinitely, prompting them to go barter with their neighbors for food and other essential supplies.
Stricter Policies Than Tokyo Olympics
Estimated, there are more than 20 million people affected by the imposed lockdown in mainland China. Residents are barred from leaving their homes and land travel is limited only for essential purposes. Mass testing and digital surveillance have also been implemented as part of the zero-tolerance approach to contain the dreaded virus.
Since the pandemic started, authorities have reported a total of 104,379 cases and 4,636 deaths.China's vaccination rate has also reached 85% but domestically transmitted cases were reportedly 124 on Thursday.
According to Indian immunologist Vineeta Bal, the lack of widespread outbreaks means the protection of the Chinese population against the COVID-19 is only by vaccines and not by antibodies that were produced by previous infections.
Previous reports said that China-made vaccines are generally considered less effective than those commonly used in other countries, like the jabs that Pfizer and Moderna have manufactured.
According to an Associated Press report, China will be implementing policies that are stricter than those of Japan when Tokyo hosted the Olympics in July last year. The Games will be held under a "closed-loop" system that will prevent all contact between the outside world, the athletes, members of the press, staff, and officials during the Winter Olympics.
The individuals inside the Games bubble will be transported in special vehicles to and fro hotels and sporting venues. Anyone who leaves the protected area must undergo quarantine for 21 days.
Winter Olympics Will Proceed Despite US Led Boycott
In December, US President Joe Biden announced that senior US government officials will not attend the Winter Olympics in protest of Beijing's flagrant violations on human rights against minorities, most are Muslims, in China's northwest region. Leaders of Australia, Canada, Japan, and other countries have expressed the same diplomatic dissent, as per Forbes.
Despite the tough challenges and controversies, there is no indication that China will slow down its efforts to contain the COVID-19 virus, that originated in its Wuhan province. Organizers have demonstrated their determination to make the Games happen.
In an inspection tour last week, Chinese President Xi Jinping has remarked that the world is "turning its eyes" on China and assured everyone that "China is ready."