Things are bad in Beijing: the Chinese government’s bric-a-brac tests

Editor’s note Before moving on, it’s important to note that I’ve been able to follow this story hour to hour over the past few days because my wife, Chantal Lively, is directly involved in it. She is the editor-in-chief of Radio Canada Sports. The other colleague involved in this case requested that his name not be mentioned in this text for personal reasons.

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At every Olympics, Chantal Levy and several other Radio Canada/CBC colleagues arrive on site several days ahead of teams of journalists, commentators, photographers and technicians. Some technicians even arrive months in advance. These colleagues are responsible for paving the way for the rest of the delegation. They ensure that our newsroom, communications systems and all of our locations in premises will be operational when we start our coverage.

We are on the air about 23 hours a day during the games and there are over a hundred employees on site. Everything should work like clockwork.

So, last Saturday, a team of seven employees of Radio Canada arrived in Beijing. Within the group, Chantal Levy and her colleague were the only ones to contract COVID-19 last December. Both were doubly vaccinated, however, and they felt completely safe because the chances of contracting COVID-19 twice in a short period of time are very slim.

In addition, the Chinese authorities required that all of them submit at least five negative tests before traveling to Beijing! These tests were performed in one of the top rated private laboratories in Canada.

Across the country, countless athletes and media representatives have contracted COVID-19 since the beginning of December. To enter China, all these people must submit five negative tests and sign a declaration of authenticity of the submitted documents. This declaration must then be approved and sealed by the Chinese Public Health.

The problem is that when you land in China, the tests that are done elsewhere are worthless. In a text published yesterday by our colleagues at CBC (A new window)The Canadian Olympic Committee’s chief medical officer, Dr. Mike Wilkinson, sounded the alarm in this regard. In his view, many Canadian athletes risk seeing their games at risk.


When they were tested upon arrival at Beijing airport, Chantal Levi and her distraught colleague learned that they had tested positive. Remember that they have undergone five negative tests before departure, the most recent being less than 72 hours before leaving Montreal.

in a second positive test In China, Chantal Levier is taken to an old hotel by two men in hazmat suits. The place, rather gloomy, turned into an isolation center. It is managed by the Chinese authorities. The man who greeted her apologized for the situation. Then she was told how to disinfect her room, shut the door, and told her she would be out when she gave two negative tests 24 hours apart.

Three times a day, someone drops a meal on their doorstep.

Her colleague’s second test came back negative. The latter managed to start her own business, but the next day, the Chinese authorities told her that her latest result was Inconclusive . She then went through a strict 14-day protocol prohibiting any close contact with anyone, as well as committing to eating alone and taking a different lane to go to Radio Canada’s headquarters at the International Broadcasting Center.

On Tuesday, 24 hours later, she was told she had given a positive test and was immediately placed in solitary confinement.

Last Monday, two days after her arrival, Chantal Levy submitted a negative test. She was sure her adventure was about to end. But the next day, the Chinese authorities warned her that she had started to test positive again…

So the two colleagues live in the same situation: they are told different diagnoses from day to day. Many experts interviewed believe that this fluctuation in results shows that there is something wrong with the tests conducted by the Chinese authorities.


In fact, the Chinese push the sensitivity of their tests to extreme levels.

Dr. Wilkinson explained that the cycle threshold (often specified as the CT value in test results) used by the Chinese is 40. The higher the cycle threshold, the less contagious the person being tested is. In Canada, the cycle threshold that determines that a person is no longer contagious is 35. The threshold set by the NHL and NBA is 30, our CBC colleagues write.

If the sensitivity of the test rises to the mat, the test becomes highly susceptible to producing false positives. It kind of becomes a lottery. You will be declared positive even if we pick up the debris of the deceased virus The CEO of a large company that specializes in lab testing and analysis explained to me. But he asked not to be named for commercial reasons.

Doctor Michael Roger agrees. The latter is a physician, microbiologist and infectologist at CHUM. Until last September, he was director of the Quebec Public Health Laboratory. This laboratory is responsible for the PCR tests that are performed in Quebec.

“Leaving, no matter what country, you can miss the tests. Sometimes you get the wrong result. But the situation you describe (to the two colleagues from Radio Canada) I think is a bit strong. To see the same person go from negative to positive day after day after production Five negative tests, this is a bric-a-brac test. »

Seeing results go from negative to positive like a yo-yo means that the amount of virus in the nasopharynx is so low that sometimes the test will pick it up and sometimes not. When the presence is too low, we can’t even grow the virus because it’s dead , It is to explain.


This situation creates chaos within the Radio Canada and Canadian Olympic Committee teams. According to my bosses, many other international broadcasters are in the same situation.

Today, Radio Canada’s Director of Sports and Olympic Production, Catherine DuPont, announced to employees who have recently contracted the COVID-19 virus that they will not be covering the Beijing Games. I’m part of so many CBC colleagues, there are dozens of us all to see our mission scrapped.

This decision is fully justified. At some point, you have to stop playing crazy.

However, our fate is very slim in this story. But what matters is the athletes. The important thing is that someone shines in Canada and quickly. We must quickly learn a lesson from this experience.

Over the past few weeks, dozens and dozens of Canadian athletes have contracted COVID-19. For example, nearly all members of bobsleigh teams and short track speed skating teams have had COVID-19, as well as a high percentage of the women’s hockey team.

And these are just a few cases that have been published. It is also reasonable to believe that a large percentage of the men’s hockey team, to be revealed next week, have also been injured. The COC and the Canadian government should quickly gather a group of allies to pressure the IOC to put an end to this vaudeville.

If established standards are maintained, a large number of athletes will almost certainly see their games end before they begin. Or they will find themselves in solitary confinement long enough to spoil the shows they took years to prepare for.

The Chinese wanted to deliver games in times of COVID. Let them take it now. There is no doubt that they locked up our athletes.

Note: At the time of publication, we learned that the Chinese authorities, following pressure from the International Olympic Committee, decided to close the isolation center where our colleagues were confined. They will be isolated elsewhere. But they still did not get out of the forest.

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