Team Ireland countdown to Winter Olympics

Image via Olympic Federation of Ireland

A zero-tolerance approach to Covid-19 worries the Irish camp ahead of the Winter Olympics.

They start in Beijing, China in three weeks.

Team Ireland chef de mission Nancy Chillingworth says controls are much tighter than they were for the Summer Games in Tokyo.

20 million people are currently locked down in three cities across the country. Authorities are particularly concerned about a recent outbreak in Tianjin, a port city just 70 miles from Beijing.

“I would be lying if I said I wasn’t worried, I’m worried,” Chillingworth said, when asked how the Covid protocols would work for the Ireland squad.

“The restrictions are bigger than they were in Tokyo, and I think the consequences are much bigger.

“China has a zero tolerance policy, so in the general public that means close contact is 800 meters away, indoors or outdoors, that’s why you lock millions of people to a given time.

“Now it doesn’t apply to the Games, close contact is the same as in Tokyo, but there are more restrictions.

“You have to wear FFP2 masks, whereas in Tokyo surgical masks were okay.

“It’s still not 100 per cent clear, in terms of close contacts and what’s going on. There’s still a bit of work to be done on that, as to whether they will be accommodated in the village. or taken to another facility.

“It’s a PCR, rather than a daily antigen test. If you’re in close contact, you’re actually tested every twelve hours.

“The closed loop is also much tighter. In Tokyo we had our pre-Games camp, and you could walk from camp to the village, but in Beijing the closed loop starts the minute you get on the plane.

“You’re on a temporary flight, you can only fly into one airport in Beijing, and from that airport you’re completely in the closed loop and there’s nothing there either.

“For example, the embassy could not send anything in the closed circuit, for fear of contamination, and you cannot send anything.

“In a way, it gives you a bit more security.”

Naomi C. Amerson