Beijing Games: less sensitive screening tests

The International Olympic Committee (IOC), the Beijing Games Organizing Committee and the Chinese government have decided to lower the thresholds that determine the COVID-19 positivity rate for participants in the prestigious sporting event.

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This is what the first two entities announced in a joint press release published on Sunday.

“The pandemic and its impacts require constant adjustments and revisions. The emergence of the Omicron variant, for example, has raised new considerations due to its high transmissibility and shorter incubation period,” the letter reads.

“In order to adapt to the reality of the current environment and in support of Games participants, the Beijing 2022 Organizing Committee and the Chinese authorities, in consultation with medical experts and the IOC, have made changes to certain measures that will be effective from January 23, 2022.

Concretely, this means that the threshold cycle value (ct) has increased from 40 to 35. The higher the number, the less contagious a person is. Thus, an individual who obtains a PCR test result with a value greater than or equal to 35 would not be placed in isolation. Initially, Chinese policymakers had decided to put the sensitivity level of their drug tests at 40, while international standards are usually 35. For comparison, the National Hockey League and the NBA have set their threshold at 30.

Last week, the Canadian Olympic Committee’s chief medical officer, DR Mike Wilkins, was among the first to say that the threshold selected by Chinese authorities could harm athletes who have contracted COVID-19, which is notably the case of several members of the bobsleigh, short track speed skating and women’s maple leaf hockey teams.

These could have obtained a positive result in China, despite several negative results obtained in the country. Their participation in the event would thus have been compromised.

Now, an individual who obtains a threshold below 35 upon arrival in China would be considered positive for the virus and placed in isolation. The latter could be released from his isolation if he has no more or no symptoms and if he has tested negative for three consecutive days. Someone with repeated positive results will be returned to their country as soon as possible.

Canadian athletes are scheduled to begin their journey to China next Wednesday. The Beijing Games will take place from February 4 to 20.

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