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Beijing organizers seal off COVID-19 'bubble' with 1 month left before Winter Olympics

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Beijing organizers seal off COVID-19 'bubble' with 1 month left before Winter Olympics
On Tuesday, Chinese President Xi Jinping inspected the Beijing preparations. He toured the National Speed Skating Oval, main media center, athletes village, operations center and winter sports training base. File Photo by Stephen Shaver/UPI | License Photo

Jan. 4 (UPI) -- Beijing sealed off its coronavirus protection "bubble" on Tuesday with a month to go before the 2022 Winter Olympics begin, meaning staffers working the Games will be sequestered there for weeks until the event concludes in late February.

Organizers have promised a "simple, safe and spectacular" Games -- but with one month left before the Opening Ceremony, a resurgence of Omicron-driven cases has put the quadrennial sporting event on its heels.

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Relegated to the closed-loop bubble will be organizers, staffers, cooks, drivers and other support staff. Athletes will also be limited in their movements once they arrive in China.

Also tainting the Beijing Games is a diplomatic boycott from several countries, including the United States, over China's purported human rights abuses.

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"Whether due to official censorship or not, domestically, Chinese people don't seem to be following or very concerned about a boycott," Marcus Chu Pok, an assistant professor at Lingnan University in Hong Kong, told the South China Morning Post.

"At least there aren't a lot of people following or commenting on a boycott on WeChat or other social media platforms."

President of the International Olympic Committee Thomas Bach and Beijing Mayor of Beijing Chen Jining are seen during the Olympic flag handover ceremony at the closing ceremony for the Pyeongchang 2018 Winter Olympics at the Olympic Stadium in Daegwalnyeong, South Korea, on February 25, 2018. File Photo by Richard Ellis/UPI

On Tuesday, Chinese President Xi Jinping inspected the Beijing preparations. He toured the National Speed Skating Oval, main media center, athletes village, operations center and winter sports training base.

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While concerns about Omicron in the city of Xian have worried some about China's ability to manage the virus during the Olympics, cases may have peaked last weekend.

"Even if there is a possible danger of an outbreak ... it will not have much impact on the Winter Olympics," Zhao Wei, a public health professor at Southern Medical University in Guangzhou, said, according to the South China Morning Post.

"If a series of closed-loop measures are implemented strictly, there won't be too much risk."

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Global media and athletes are scheduled to arrive in Beijing in the coming weeks. The 2022 Winter Olympics will take place from Feb. 4-20 and the Paralympic Games from March 4-13.

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