No Zika disruption to Singapore GP as WHO praises Republic for textbook response

Ticket sales for the Formula One race that will take place in two weeks have not been affected by travel advisories so far.
Ticket sales for the Formula One race that will take place in two weeks have not been affected by travel advisories so far.PHOTO: ST FILE

Reuters, Bloomberg - Singapore has had a textbook response to the Zika outbreak, the World Health Organisation (WHO) outbreaks and emergencies head Peter Salama said after a meeting of the WHO's emergency committee on Zika in Geneva on Friday.

He also commended the Singaporean Government on its handling of the outbreak, saying that it represented "a role model".

Salama explained that since the confirmation of Singapore's first Zika case, "within that period of time there's been an enormous amount... of lab work, of public health work, including vector control" as well as "detailed follow-up including retrospective analysis of cases in Singapore".

WHO also said there is no evidence of a significant spread of the Zika virus due to the Olympic games in Rio de Janeiro, boding well for a "low-risk assessment" at the Paralympics starting Sept 7 to 18.

In Singapore, ticket sales for the Formula One race that will take place in two weeks have not been affected so far, despite travel advisories warning against visiting the Republic, according to its promoter.

Sales to corporate and VIP attendees, a key source of revenue, have already reached their expected levels, signalling the race should have good attendance, Michael Roche, executive director of the Singapore Grand Prix, said in an interview on Friday.

The United States and Australia are among countries which issued cautions on travelling to Singapore.

"At some point we knew Zika would come through Asia, it was a little bit unfortunate maybe that Singapore grabbed some of the headlines," Roche said. "We just get on with it."

The Sept 16-18 event, which takes place at the Marina Bay race track, has drawn an average attendance of 257,000 spectators since the first race in 2008 that was won by Spanish driver Fernando Alonso.

Outbreaks of the mosquito-borne Zika virus in Singapore and Malaysia have barely registered with Formula One drivers due to race in both countries this month but there is some concern behind the scenes.

Five of the last eight rounds of the championship are in regions where Zika has been reported - Singapore and Malaysia before Texas and Mexico in October and Brazil in November.

While teams have had plenty of time to prepare for Brazil, and Texas has had no reported cases of Zika transmitted by mosquitoes, sources indicated that Singapore could pose more of a logistical headache if key staff opt out at short notice on medical advice.

Those willing to discuss their plans at the Italian Grand Prix this weekend said they had not experienced any late pullouts so far, however.

"We are supplying anti-mosquito products and long-sleeved outfits and we have sent yesterday a brief to everybody about how to take care and all the why, what and how about it," McLaren racing director Eric Boullier told Reuters. "Everybody is going," he added.

Manor racing director Dave Ryan said his team were taking the "normal precautions".

"We've briefed all the guys, we're offering them the option of wearing long-sleeved garments and obviously supplying them with the right protection... and just making them as informed as they possibly can be," he said. "And it's fine. We're comfortable with it."

Williams' Finnish driver Valtteri Bottas, who was in Brazil last month for the Rio Olympics where swimmer girlfriend Emilia Pikkarainen was competing, was one of those drivers unaware of the Singapore outbreak.

"I haven't heard about it... I'll need to keep the overalls on, then," he said.

"I'm still going. That's for sure."