In Brief

900 soldiers deployed after norovirus outbreak at the Winter Olympics

PyeongChang 2018 organisers are ready despite quarantine of 1,200 staff and an expected cold snap

Organisers of the PyeongChang 2018 Winter Olympics have called in 900 military personnel after 1,200 private security staff were quarantined because of concerns over a norovirus outbreak. 

The PyeongChang Organising Committee for the 2018 Olympic & Paralympic Winter Games (POCOG) confirmed that 41 workers had reported ill with complaints of headaches, stomach pain and diarrhoea, says USA Today

POCOG said that because of the outbreak, all 1,200 staff staying in the affected accommodation had been asked to remain there. The military will now assist to help check credentials and screen baggage for fans and officials entering the venues.

It is suspected that ground water used in food and beverages at the Horeb Youth Centre could be the cause of the outbreak. Yesterday the Korean Centre for Disease Control and Prevention began speaking to everyone staying in the youth centre; those with symptoms were sent to hospital and those not affected will remain there in quarantine.

In a statement, POCOG said: “To address the shortfall in security workforce due to the isolation, 900 military personnel have been deployed to take over the work of the civil safety personnel. They will work across 20 venues until all affected workforce are able to return to duty.

“Those found with the virus symptoms will be sent to hospital and those that do not show symptoms will continue to be isolated in the Youth Centre until there are no further cases.”

The International Olympic Committee said leaflets were being handed out with guidelines about the virus and hand sanitisers will also be used. CNN reports that all Olympic accommodation and buses were being disinfected.

Olympic Games executive director Christophe Dubi told Reuters: “All areas are getting disinfected. They [organisers] will be extremely diligent to sanitise anything that came into contact with the persons. Very stringent measures are in place when it comes to food and beverage.”  

Despite the outbreak and the prospect of freezing conditions for the opening ceremony, POCOG president Lee Hee-beom said that PyeongChang is ready to host the Games.

He said: “We are fully operational with many of our athletes and officials here and settling into their life in the villages and training is under way at all venues.”

Friday’s opening ceremony will be held in the open air Olympic Stadium and freezing conditions are expected. Daytime temperatures are below zero but during the night it could drop as low as -21C.

Lee told Reuters that spectators would be issued with a special bag that includes hot packs, seat warmers, a hat and a blanket.   

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