If they have been fully vaccinated, athletes who travel to Beijing to compete in the Winter Olympics can skip quarantine. This is a sign that China is open to easing some restrictions to allow them to reach the Games in February.

The Beijing Olympics organizing committee stated Wednesday that athletes will continue to be subject to strict rules and could face punishment, including expulsion. Committee members didn’t specify which offenses would be grounds for expulsion. The Beijing Olympics have already proven to be one of the most highly-regulated and large-scale sporting events since the outbreak of the pandemic.

The organizers have created a closed-loop management system that will keep officials, journalists, and athletes in a bubble-like environment throughout their time in China. All those in the bubble will need to be fully vaccinated, or they will be placed in quarantine for 21 days. They will also have daily testing for the virus. All overseas visitors to China currently must be quarantined.

Another possible penalty for violating the rules is warnings, temporary suspension or other “relatively severe consequences”, Zhang Jiandong, a senior member of the committee, stated at a press conference.

Only domestic spectators will be able to purchase tickets for the Winter Olympics. Beijing’s Covid protocols seem more stringent than those for the Tokyo Olympics in August and July.

Athletes were not required to have vaccinated at the Tokyo Games. They were permitted limited contact with people outside of the bubble. Some athletes broke the rules by not wearing masks. Others went on unapproved sightseeing trips. However, participants were not allowed to leave the competition unless they tested positive.

China has a strict policy of “zero Covid”, which means that it uses large scale lockdowns and tests to eradicate small-scale Covid outbreaks. Officials were trying to stop a small Covid epidemic in Lanzhou, a city located in the northwestern region of China.