Zika virus: Rio-bound athletes told to take precautions

Olympic team heading to Zika-hit Brazil in August to heed guidelines

The Singapore National Olympic Council (SNOC) has advised Olympic-bound athletes to take necessary precautions when they travel to Zika-hit Brazil in August.

Team Singapore's chef de mission for the Rio de Janeiro Games, Mr Low Teo Ping, said in a statement yesterday: "We have advised our athletes and officials to take the necessary precautions and to minimise the risks and contact with mosquitoes when visiting areas susceptible to the virus."

He said that they will heed the guidelines provided by the authorities if any extra precautions are necessary to protect the athletes from the mosquito-borne virus.

He said: "The SNOC will remain guided by the International Olympic Committee, the Ministry of Health and the relevant authorities on the management of the Zika virus."

This comes after a 48-year-old man, a Singapore permanent resident, tested positive for Zika on Friday after returning from Brazil, in the first confirmed case of the virus to surface here.

MINIMISING RISKS

We have advised our athletes and officials to take the necessary precautions and to minimise the risks and contact with mosquitoes when visiting areas susceptible to the virus.

MR LOW TEO PING, Team Singapore's chef de mission for the Rio de Janeiro Games, on asking the team to be careful in Brazil.

The ongoing outbreak in Brazil has cast a pall over the Aug 5 to 21 Olympic Games.

Australian golfer Marc Leishman pulled out of the Rio Games last week over fears of transmitting the virus to his wife. British reigning heptathlon Olympic champion Jessica Ennis-Hill may skip a training camp in Brazil before the Olympics.

But for now, Singapore's athletes are not unduly worried.

Singapore swimmer Joseph Schooling's mother May feels that while one cannot be totally immune from being bitten by mosquitoes, she is leaving nothing to chance.

She said: "When the mosquito bites you, it will bite you. At the moment, he (Joseph) is not there, but he is going to get all the vaccinations that will be required before going down (to Brazil).

"I am going soon, and I am bringing everything - mosquito patches, repellents - I am going to bring a lot of them there.

"He (Joseph) will move around mosquito-proof."

For Olympic-bound shooters Teo Shun Xie and Jasmine Ser, they had already made a trip to Rio de Janeiro last month for the International Shooting Sport Federation World Cup. The team wore long sleeves and slathered on repellent.

Ms Jeanine Heng, Singapore Shooting Association's high performance manager, said: "Everyone is concerned for the safety of those who are going (to the Olympics).

"They have been briefed thoroughly on what to expect and what precautions to take."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on May 15, 2016, with the headline 'Rio-bound athletes told to take precautions'. Print Edition | Subscribe