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Swedish Journalist Becomes the Story in Beijing Quarantine 


FILE - A medical worker wearing protective gear prepares swabs at a coronavirus test site in Xichen District in Beijing, Jan. 25, 2022.

A Swedish journalist who was whisked off to isolation by ambulance at the Beijing Olympics has found a way to keep working, writing a diary of his time in Chinese quarantine for his newspaper.

Philip Gadd tested positive for COVID-19 after landing in Beijing on Wednesday to cover the Winter Olympics and quickly found himself shut off from the rest of the world in a designated quarantine hotel.

Gadd's first columns for the Expressen newspaper, where he works as a reporter and web TV anchor, covered his experiences as "spacemen" officials dressed from head to toe in personal protective equipment (PPE) — transported him to the facility, far away from the athletes chasing gold and the media covering them.

Gadd was kitted out for the journey in his own PPE, complete with a mask, visor, gloves and a one-piece white suit that covered him from head to toe.

"It was a really terrifying experience and it just felt like... it didn't feel real. It felt as if I was in a movie, a sci-fi movie or something," he told Reuters in a Zoom interview from his quarantine hotel.

"It was really hard to understand that everything happened to me. I was really far away from home. I'm from Sweden, so I have traveled all the way to China and I was just by myself, nobody to speak to, in an ambulance."

Journalists covering the games are subjected to daily COVID tests, obliged to wear masks and are separated by metal barriers from athletes they are interviewing in mixed zones.

Gadd tested negative on Saturday and is now awaiting a second negative result so that he can join his colleagues and cover the cross-country events as planned.

He said that the internet was good in the hotel so he had been able to help his colleagues remotely.

Many athletes in quarantine have complained about the lack of food but Gadd said that had not been a problem. What he missed most, apart from his friends, family and girlfriend, was the freedom to make his own choices.

"I think the first thing I will do when I get out [of] here is just to get a menu somewhere at a restaurant and just choose something that I want to have. That's the thing that I miss the most," he said.

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