China warns it will take action against ‘polluters’ ahead of 2022 Winter Olympics

·2 min read
Women wearing face masks printed with a slogan for Beijing Winter Olympics Games take a selfie with a decoration for the Winter Olympics Games on Tiananmen Square in Beijing (AP)
Women wearing face masks printed with a slogan for Beijing Winter Olympics Games take a selfie with a decoration for the Winter Olympics Games on Tiananmen Square in Beijing (AP)

China will take preventive measures to control air pollution during the upcoming Winter Olympics in a bid to hold the tournament in a “good environment,” according to a spokesperson of the country’s environment ministry.

Liu Youbin, the spokesperson for the ministry of ecology and environment, warned that winter weather was “very unfavourable” for efforts to keep the air clean in Beijing and nearby areas of Hebei province where the Olympic games are set to begin from 4 February.

“Beijing and Hebei (can) take necessary administrative measures during the preparation and staging of the Winter Olympics to adopt control measures against enterprises and vehicles with high pollution levels,” Mr Liu told a regular briefing.

While China’s air pollution levels have seen major improvements in the last few years, air quality is still far below World Health Organization standards, according to the data released by the government.

Since China won the bid for the Winter Olympics in 2015, authorities have tried to raise vehicle fuel standards, shut polluting firms and cut coal consumption in a bid to make the Games “green”.

However, according to the most recent environment ministry data, concentrations of hazardous airborne particles known as PM2.5, a main measure of smog, stood at 205 micrograms per cubic metre in Beijing on Monday morning. A level of 60 micrograms per cubic meter is considered safe.

Mr Liu said the two regions would act if there were warnings of heavy pollution during the games but they would also try to minimise the economic impact of any measures and would ensure full operations at companies involved in important sectors like energy or Covid-19 control.

With just a few weeks to go before the Olympics, China has ramped up its efforts to tackle Covid outbreaks, especially in Beijing which has reported a total of 36 local symptomatic cases since 15 January.

A Beijing municipality that reported six new domestically transmitted infections with confirmed symptoms for Sunday, will begin a new round of Covid-19 tests among its roughly 2 million residents from Tuesday onwards.

While China is dealing with any new Covid outbreaks on a war footing, it has now relaxed some of its countermeasures for participants ahead of the winter games.

The changes include the threshold for being classed as positive for Covid-19 being eased and the time period for which a person is deemed a close contact being reduced from 14 to 7 days. The changes have come into effect immediately and apply retrospectively, according to a statement from the International Olympic Committee (IOC) on Monday.

Additional reporting by agencies

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