The Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang start in less than 48 hours, and there is an uninvited guest that a number of event organizers and health officials are trying to give the boot. The South Korean military was even called in to help!
Based on the latest reports today, at least 86 event staff have fallen ill with norovirus, up from 32 yesterday, with some lab-confirmed cases. A few of these individuals were in food preparation in the media village, but most appear to have been university students hired for security detail to maintain order and screen visitors. A total of 1,200 staff have been quarantined in their rooms as a precaution, and 900 military personnel were deployed to temporarily fill the vacancies.
According to The Korea Times, it appears the virus was first found at the Horeb Odaesan Youth Training Center, where some of the security agents were staying in a shared room, and the virus was isolated from some surfaces there. One of the affected workers mentioned unsanitary water was present in a shower and restroom area in this residence, which was corroborated by health officials as a potential source of the virus. Since some of these staff were at the athlete’s village, there has been some concern for the international athletes staying there.
So far no athletes or spectators have gotten sick, and great lengths are being taken to ensure it stays that way.
According to Christophe Dubi, the Olympic Games executive director, all areas of the facility are being disinfected. He also said that they are keeping to international standards for ensuring the quality of foods and beverages served at the event. Leaflets have also been given to the local population on how to prevent and treat the virus.
The Olympics have long been a drawing force for international good will, and perhaps we can all send some good vibes to those dozens of Korean university students holed up in their rooms.