Athletes press on despite Zika threat

Training goes on despite proximity to hot spots; F1 Grand Prix to continue as planned

It is business as usual for Singapore's sporting fraternity despite concerns about the threat posed by the Zika virus.

These days, Home United goalkeeper Hyrulnizam Juma'at has another task to his daily schedule - shutting out the mozzies - in addition to his day job of keeping out goal-bound shots.

The footballer - who lives in Yishun, not far from Sembawang, which is listed as a Zika area of concern by the Ministry of Health (MOH) - still carries on training twice a day, like the rest of his team.

He and his wife, Nur Hafizah, 35, are expecting a baby in November, but the 29-year-old said: "Of course I'm worried, now that Zika has hit our shores.

"I've been carrying out precautionary measures at home, like checking the flowerpots, but I trust that the authorities will carry out necessary preventive measures should the situation escalate."

His stance reflects the broader sentiments within the local sports scene, which remains concerned but not unduly worried about the Zika threat.

SEA Games high jump bronze medallist Michelle Sng, 29, clocks 20 hours of training at the Kallang Practice Track weekly, just 2km from the the Sims Drive Zika hot spot.

She said: "We train as per normal... If it's necessary, I have a stash of mosquito repellent that I can use, but I've never had to use it here."

The S-League, which runs the nation's only professional football league, did not say if it would carry out preventive measures like fogging or distribute insect repellent at stadiums during matches, but said it would follow all health advisories issued by the authorities.

A spokesman added: "All our clubs have been informed to be more vigilant... staff and players are advised to seek medical attention immediately if they are unwell, especially with symptoms of fever and rash."

One venue that is stepping up preventive measures is the Singapore Sports Hub.

A spokesman said: "The Singapore Sports Hub prioritises the safety and well-being of all our patrons and staff and has a stringent mosquito prevention regime, which includes weekly larviciding at all venues including car parks and precinct, bi-monthly fogging."

In 16 days' time, 22 Formula One drivers, their entourage, officials and fans will be competing at the Formula 1 Singapore Airlines Singapore Grand Prix.

A spokesman for race organisers Singapore GP did not say if any teams have expressed concerns about the Zika outbreak in the country, but said: "We will continue to work with all relevant government agencies and implement any recommended precautionary measures as directed or deemed necessary."

The Singapore Tourism Board (STB), the lead government agency for the night race, insisted yesterday that the Republic "remains a safe travel destination" and that it is "premature to assess the impact on (the Singapore Grand Prix) at this juncture".

Fans remain cautious about the threat but maintain that the risk at the Marina Bay Street Circuit, which hosted 260,192 spectators over three days last year, can be managed.

Adrian Fann, 36, who has bought tickets for all three days of the Grand Prix, said: "You can manage it by putting on mosquito repellent. I'd also imagine the organisers would have done the necessary fogging to minimise the threat."

Another fan, Ken Lu, is contemplating attending the night race and hopes the organisers will do more to protect all involved.

Lu, 20, said: "If possible (the organisers) should provide repellent for ticket holders or at the least make it available for purchase at the location."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 02, 2016, with the headline 'Athletes press on despite Zika threat'. Print Edition | Subscribe