The emergence of the new omicron variant of the COVID-19 virus is presenting yet another challenge to the 2022 Winter Olympics in China, though the extent of the variant's effect remains unknown.
The omicron variant first came to light last week, but its speed of contagion has rattled both governments and financial markets. Moderna officials on Tuesday warned that existing vaccines will almost certainly be less effective against omicron, but the degree of the variant's severity remains uncertain. Already, however, governments have begun re-instituting travel restrictions, encouraging vaccines and boosters for those who have access, and girding against financial uncertainty.
Meanwhile, Beijing officials projected confidence. “I’m fully confident that the Winter Olympics will be held as scheduled, smoothly and successfully," Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijan said at a regular Tuesday briefing, per the Associated Press. However, Zhao conceded that the omicron variant will “certainly bring some challenges in terms of prevention and control.”
Already, Chinese Olympic officials have barred foreign spectators from attending the Games. Athletes, officials and journalists will be contained in three separate athletic venues, with extensive testing both prior to and during the Games.
The pandemic began in the Chinese city of Wuhan in late 2019, but since then, China has contained infection inside its borders. However, the pandemic's worldwide effects, combined with diplomatic protests of Chinese treatment of minority groups, have complicated the march to February 2022.
Jay Busbee is a writer for Yahoo Sports. Follow him on Twitter at @jaybusbee or contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.