China on January 17 cancelled plans to sell tickets to the public for the Winter Olympics in Beijing, as the number of Covid-19 cases reported in the country reached its highest since March 2020.
Organisers said last year there would be no international spectators at the Games – partly due to China’s weeks-long quarantine requirements – but they had promised to allow domestic audiences.
But those plans were scrapped on January 17 as China reported 223 new infections just three weeks before the Winter Olympics are set to open.
“In order to protect the health and safety of Olympic-related personnel and spectators, it was decided to adjust the original plan to sell tickets to the public and [instead] organise spectators to watch the Games on-site,” the Beijing Olympic organising committee said in a statement.
It is unclear how these spectators will be selected and whether they will have to quarantine before or after the Games.
China has stuck to a strict policy of targeting zero Covid cases even as the rest of the world has reopened.
Athletes and officials have already started to land in the capital ahead of the Games, immediately entering a tightly controlled bubble separating them from the rest of the population.
After a local case of the highly infectious Omicron strain was detected in Beijing over the weekend, authorities also tightened regulations for arrivals from elsewhere in China.
The capital is now demanding a negative test before travel and a follow-up test after entering, with residents urged not to leave the city for the upcoming Lunar New Year holiday.
Some tourist sites have also been closed.