Diplomats at Beijing Olympics Risk 21 Days in Quarantine


China warned foreign diplomats attending the Winter Olympics opening ceremony they could face 21 days in quarantine if they are deemed close contacts of positive cases in the audience. 

The notice, sent to diplomatic missions and seen by Bloomberg News, came amid a long list of measures that attendees must comply with to attend the Feb. 4 event. They included avoiding parties, meals with friends or even elevator chitchat, along with regular Covid-19 tests and travel restrictions. 

“If positive cases are found in the certain audience area, the health authority will determine the close contacts,” the notice said. “The close contacts will go through a 21-day centralized medical observation,” it added. 

While many countries are likely to comply with the rules, the quarantine requirement in particular is making some Western diplomats wary of attending the opening ceremony, according to one who asked not to be identified discussing private conversations. 

China’s Foreign Ministry didn’t immediately respond to questions on the notice. 

China is going ahead with the Games while trying to stem a growing number of outbreaks around the country. President Xi Jinping’s government remains committed to a Covid Zero policy of eliminating the virus that has seen it impose some of the world’s harshest border restrictions, and put cities of millions of people under lockdown for a handful of cases. 

The Winter Games are taking place within a vast bubble of transportation, accommodation and venues. Diplomats must take two Covid PCR tests in the 48 hours before attending and provide their vaccination record.

“If vaccinated with Chinese vaccines, a booster is needed,” the Chinese notice said. “If vaccinated with non-Chinese vaccines, a full course should be completed but the booster is not required.” 

Diplomatic Boycott

Australia, Canada and the U.K. have joined a U.S.-led diplomatic boycott of the Games over human rights abuses in China’s far-west Xinjiang region, the first such protest of a host country since the Cold War. Only Russia, Pakistan and Poland have confirmed their heads of state will attend. 

China had already banned overseas spectators from what would normally be a major draw for visitors and tourism. It’s a stark contrast to the Beijing Summer Olympics in 2008, which were seen as a huge international coming-of-age party for the country. 

The small number of spectators that attend also face a slew of restrictions, while journalists will be separated from competitors by thick plastic shields. Those entering the bubble face a lengthy compliance checklist as the Communist Party works to ensure an influx of foreign competitors doesn’t result in a large Covid outbreak.

‘Very Cold’

Once at the opening ceremony, officials will be prohibited from carrying bags, items with slogans, “publicity materials” and “unauthorized cameras or video capture equipment,” according to the Chinese notice sent to foreign embassies. Diplomats were also advised against carrying “risky items” such as bombs.

The notice also asked those who have had recent complications due to diabetes, severe heart conditions, epilepsy or mobility issues to stay away, noting the temperatures would be “very cold” and participants would need to be at the site for five hours.

“Participants should be aware of the health requirements, and are kindly requested to follow the requirements and cooperate with the Chinese side,” it said.