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Sports: Beijing Olympic Committee lowers threshold for producing negative COVID-19 test

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In a communication sent out Sunday by Beijing 2022, it was revealed the cycle threshold (CT) value would be dropping from 40 to 35, making it easier for participants to produce a negative test. © Lintao Zhang/Getty Images In a communication sent out Sunday by Beijing 2022, it was revealed the cycle threshold (CT) value would be dropping from 40 to 35, making it easier for participants to produce a negative test.

The Beijing Olympic Committee and Chinese authorities are lowering the threshold for producing a negative test for any participant arriving at the Games, dropping the cycle threshold (CT) value from 40 to 35.

A communication by Beijing 2022 was sent out Sunday explaining the change. The lower value makes it easier for participants to produce a negative test, especially if previously infected.

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This comes 48 hours after the higher threshold value was questioned.

The higher the CT value, the less infectious a person with COVID-19 is. Many places in Canada use a CT value of 35.

The NBA and NHL use 30, while the NFL has set its threshold at 35.

"In order to adapt to the reality of the current environment and further support of Games participants, Beijing 2022 and the Chinese authorities, in consultation with medical experts and IOC, refined the countermeasures with the following changes effective 23 January 2022," it said in the communication.

Effective immediately for both airport testing and screening testing, participants whose PCR results have a CT value greater than or equal to 35 will be managed in the same way as a close contact for seven days and will not generate any close contacts.

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Anyone with a PCR result of less than 35 will be considered positive.

Beijing Olympic organizers have confirmed 72 cases of COVID-19 among 2,586 Games-related personnel entering China from Jan. 4 to Jan. 22, with no cases among 171 athletes and team officials arriving in that period.


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On Friday, the chair of the Beijing 2022 medical expert panel, Dr. Brian McCloskey, defended the strict protocols in place for participants attending the Olympics in China as necessary to reduce the risk of spread during the Games.

Dr. McCloskey told CBC Sports there are different ways countries handle their protocols. He said they had been exchanging scientific papers with colleagues in China to better understand the evidence behind how the testing gets done.

"We are using a standard PCR test, which is an international standard the World Health Organization approved. Every laboratory sets its own standards in terms of CT values, but these are consistent across the world," he said.

Canadian athletes could be affected by Beijing's higher COVID-19 testing threshold

  Canadian athletes could be affected by Beijing's higher COVID-19 testing threshold CBC Sports has learned the Beijing Olympic Committee is using a higher testing threshold for detecting positive COVID-19 cases, making it more challenging for Canadian athletes to produce a negative test upon arriving in China. Chief Medical Officer for the Canadian Olympic Committee Dr. Mike Wilkinson confirmed Monday afternoon the CT (Cycle Threshold) value being used in China to detect a positive test is 40. For context, many places in Canada use 35 as the threshold value — the lower the number, the more infectious someone is. The higher the number, the less infectious the person is.

This will have a considerable impact on participants who have previously tested positive but have recovered.

Infectious diseases specialist, Dr. Isaac Bogoch, expressed initial concern at how high the CT value was set, saying anyone who has recently tested positive could still be showing values because of residual virus.

"If someone had a recent infection, has clear evidence of that and is not transmissible, I would not be concerned with a residual PCR test," Bogoch said.

"It doesn't make sense to test someone in that circumstance or at the very least make an important decision given the circumstance."

Other changes

Further changes include that if a positive participant spends 10 days or more in isolation, then that person will be released to their Games time accommodation if they are not displaying any COVID-19 symptoms and if their PCR results have a CT value greater than or equal to 35 for the past three consecutive days.

Another change is reducing the time in which a person is deemed a close contact, dropping from two weeks to seven days. "During that period, testing will be carried out twice daily.

The close contact will be able to choose whether their PCR test sample is collected as a nasopharyngeal or oropharyngeal swab," the communication explained.

All of these changes will be applied immediately and will also apply retrospectively.

Journalists prepare for "full throttle" approach to Games, no matter the challenges .
Good luck finding a Canadian athlete planning to compete in Beijing who will publicly offer blunt assessments on some of the newsier talking points ahead of the Games. Strained Canada-China relations? The Peng Shuai situation? Human rights abuses? Unlike previous Games, when hot topics were often discussed, competitors have largely avoided the political conversation when it comes to the host nation. Don't expect journalists to pull the same punches when they descend on Beijing. Many are licking their chops at the bounty of storylines that await, potential bristling by authorities be damned.

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