Beijing’s Olympic bubble makes a slightly surreal experience


BEIJING (AP) – For journalists covering the Beijing Winter Olympics, China’s strict pandemic measures are creating a surreal and somewhat frustrating experience.

China requires electronic confirmation of the health status of those participating in or covering the Games and shunts them into a closed loop bubble upon arrival.

That kept Associated Press photo editor Yirmiyan Arthur on edge during her journey from New Delhi to Beijing via Tokyo on Tuesday.

A colleague helped her download the app in Beijing, but the presence of health workers in biohazard suits reminded her that restrictions would keep her inside the bubble requiring competitors, officials, staff and journalists to stay isolated from the general public.

“I know the only experience of Beijing I’m going to experience is the Beijing I will see out of my bus window and my hotel window,” Arthur said. “I’m not really going to experience China, I’m just going to experience the Olympics within the bubble.”

AP video journalist Johnson Lai is facing more stress because China has no formal relations with his self-governing Taiwan homeland that China claims as its own territory.

The lack of connection meant he was unable to complete the form in the Olympics app to get a code, which requires a test conducted at a Chinese-approved hospital.

“There’s a lot of uncertain matters that we can’t control. We can only apply based on their procedures,” said Lai, who is forgoing celebrating Chinese New Year with his family to cover the Games.

So far, organizers say there have been 39 positive results out of the more than 2,500 tests at the airport among those who arrived for the Games since early January.

Within the bubble, there have been 33 positives out of 336,400 tests. None of the positives involved athletes. The average time spent in isolation for most has been around six days.