Organisers of the Beijing 2022 Winter Olympics have slightly relaxed their famously strict COVID-19 measures for participants in next month's Games, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) said on Monday.
The changes, which take immediate effect, include easing the threshold for being designated positive for COVID-19 from PCR tests, and reducing to seven days from 14 the period for which a person is deemed a close contact.
The changes "have been developed in order to further adapt to the reality of the current environment and support the Games participants," the IOC said in a statement.
The changes apply retrospectively, it added, and could allow the participation of some athletes.
Some team officials had expressed a fear that Beijing's stricter tests could block some athletes, including those who have recovered from COVID-19, from participating.
The changes to the positivity threshold mean that now only participants whose PCR results with a Cycle Threshold (CT) of less than 35 will be considered positive, according to the statement.
Beijing 2022 organisers had previously used the more sensitive CT of 40 as a threshold for designating those positive, the Games' medical chief, Brian McCloskey, said on Sunday.
Now those with a PCR result of 35 or more will no longer be classed as positive, being managed instead in the same way as close contacts and not themselves generate any close contacts, the IOC said.
Those with a CT below 35, and therefore, positive, will be able to leave designated isolation facilities and return to their original Games-time accommodation and the closed loop if they are not showing any COVID-19 symptoms and the CT value stays at 35 or more for three consecutive days.
Once there they will be managed as a close contact, it added. Close contacts are still able to compete at the Games, but are subject to extra tests and restrictions.
Another policy change being developed by both Beijing 2022 organisers and the IOC will allow participants who repeatedly test positive for COVID-19 to return home as early as possible, but this would be announced separately, the IOC added.