Millions under lockdown as China faces multiple COVID outbreaks ahead of Beijing Winter Olympics
Chinese President Xi Jinping got to watch athletes practicing for next month's Winter Olympics as he toured some of the show-stopping venues in Beijing last week. But behind the upbeat photo op is a vast, invasive effort to stop COVID-19 from spoiling the nearly $4 billion event.
The country is dealing with multiple coronavirus outbreaks despite some of the toughest pandemic measures in the world, which include welding shut the doors of people suspected of being infected.
Ahead of the February 4 opening ceremony, around 20 million people have had their movement restricted due to a surge of infections. Meanwhile, public health swat teams are testing 14 million people for the second time in three days after an Omicron outbreak in Tianjin, a city that is in commuting distance from Beijing.
One citizen posted a video on social media showing panicked people at a market trying to stockpile food. They'd heard stories from the city of Xi'an — where officials had to step in and deliver meals to some residents, in their second week of complete lockdown, who said they'd run out of things to eat.
Other videos on social media showed local officials in Xi'an welding shut the door of a man suspected of being exposed to the virus.
Universal COVID testing is going on in other cities, too, with home visits to make sure no one slips through the cracks. China has also launched a huge vaccine booster program, offering shots to anyone over three years old.
The authoritarian country wants a COVID-free Olympics to impress the world. Some experts believe that may be difficult to pull off, even with foreign spectators banned and all athletes and their team members sealed in what's meant to be a virus-free bubble.
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