There are just three weeks to go before Beijing is scheduled to stage the Winter Olympics ©Getty Images

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) has said it is working to adjust the strict travel COVID-19 protocols in place for Beijing 2022 to give coronavirus-hit athletes a greater chance of reaching next month’s Winter Olympics.

Under the current rules set out by Beijing 2022, athletes will need to undergo further COVID-19 testing if they contract the virus within 30 days of their flight.

Infected participants must submit two negative polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests within a minimum 24-hour interval for Beijing 2022 to review "at least eight working days" before their planned departure date.

Once approved, they will also be required to deliver two further negative PCR tests on two separate days within 96 hours before leaving for the Olympics.

However, with the risk of catching COVID-19 increasing due to the high transmissibility of the Omicron variant, Pierre Ducrey, the IOC’s Olympic Games operations director, fears the existing rules could deny many athletes from competing at the Games.

"Right now there is an eight-day difference between the set of two tests," said Ducrey.

"What we are discussing right now with the medical expert panel is that we could try to shorten the time that those tests could be taken to try to maximise the number of people that could come to the Games.

"If we have cases of this nature we will look at them and try to understand how we can create circumstances that would allow the athlete to participate but of course we have to do that by making sure the conditions for everybody else are safe.

"We are working very much on that because we understand that we have a few people that will cut it very close to the departure date."

Alysa Liu is facing further COVID-19 tests after contracting COVID-19 ©Getty Images
Alysa Liu is facing further COVID-19 tests after contracting COVID-19 ©Getty Images

Ghanaian skeleton racer Akwasi Frimpong’s chances of qualifying for Beijing 2022 were dashed when he tested positive for COVID-19 in Germany prior to a series of events.

American figure skater Alysa Liu was recently infected by COVID-19 at the United States Figure Skating Championships.

Liu is expected to represent the US at Beijing 2022 but is having to take extra PCR tests following the infection.

Ducrey confirmed that 41 per cent of athletes had qualified for the Games, scheduled to open on February 4.

Several events are due to take place over the next few days as athletes seek to boost their hopes of making Beijing 2022 before the qualification deadline on Sunday (January 16).

With COVID-19 cases increasing throughout the world, the IOC announced additional measures this week to help mitigate the risk posed by the virus.

"We know that in some of the countries where competitions are taking place right now the risk to catch COVID is real," said Ducrey.

"We have worked as you can see from the recommendations that we did for not only participants but also organisers of events that will take place in the course of January to increase the level of attention to have very strict controls in place to try to maximise the chances for athletes to not catch COVID-19.

"We know it is a possibility so we have worked with the organisers to try to minimise the time in which they can recover from COVID before they depart.

Anyone entering the Beijing 2022 closed loop will be tested daily for coronavirus ©Getty Images
Anyone entering the Beijing 2022 closed loop will be tested daily for coronavirus ©Getty Images

"I think the real key effort here is about education in prevention at events and training camps and everyday life of the athletes and all the participants.

"They need to be extremely careful not to be in that situation because if they were to test positive for a duration of time that overlaps with the duration of the Games it will not be possible for them to participate.

"We are doing all we can to try to provide the guidance that would allow the teams, the athletes and the organisers to do the right things before departure."

Beijing 2022 has implemented a "closed-loop management system" in a bid to combat the threat of COVID-19.

Once within the loop, people will undergo daily testing for COVID-19 and will be unable to access the outside world for the duration of their time in Beijing.

Unvaccinated participants must complete a three-week quarantine before they are allowed to travel to approved locations.

Ducrey said close to 1,000 people had entered the closed loop since it had come into operation on January 4 and insisted the first impression of the system was "extremely positive."

The World Health Organization claimed last week that it does not foresee any increased risk of transmission of COVID-19 at the Games.