Alex Enumah in Abuja
With barely days to the commencement of the 2016 Olympics Games in Rio de Janeiro, the Brazilian government has assured all participants and visitors alike of its determination to host a historic and disease-free sports fiesta despite fears of the dreaded Zika virus disease in that region.
He gave the assurance that the protection of the health of Brazilians and tourists coming to the global event is a priority and as such all necessary measures have been put in place to protect the health of everyone.
In a statement made available to THISDAY by the Deputy Head of Mission, Embassy of Brazil in Abuja, Roberto Affaia, Brazil’s Minister of Health, Ricardo Barros said that protecting the health of Brazilians and tourists coming to this world event is a priority to the federal government, which has pledged to put into effect appropriate measures to protect peoples’ health.
“I was recently in Geneva, Switzerland, and reaffirmed to the International Olympic Committee (IOC) that we would never risk the health of athletes and tourists. Brazil is keeping all necessary care and measures so that the games are a historical milestone in sports”.
Barros claimed that the circulation of the Zika virus, spread by the Aedesaegypti mosquito, will not hinder the country from having a safe and unforgettable event for athletes, participants and spectators as according to him, the risks are minimal.
Adding: The country’s healthcare system is duly prepared for this big moment, with preventive actions in place against the Aedesaegypti, 24/7 monitoring in the six cities hosting the games and trained professionals who are qualified to attend to emergencies.
According to the statement a study published by the University of Cambridge makes a forecast of less than one case of infection among the 500,000 tourists.
The statement further revealed that specialists from the World Health Organisation (WHO) on June 14 corroborated that the risk of propagation of the disease is very low. It said during the games, trips to Rio will represent 0.25 per cent of all travel to Zika-affected areas, according to United States’ CDC while noting that on the overall, the virus is already circulating in 60 countries, and Brazil represents 15 per cent of the exposed population.
The minister also observed that during the games, Brazil will be in winter time, which is when diseases spread by the Aedesaegypti hit their lower rate.
“In addition to that, the mobilisation actions to fight the mosquito, like home visits and public investment in monitoring and prevention, have caused an early fall of Zika rates – infection cases dropped 87 per cent between February and May this year.
“The monitoring and follow-up of these data are still in progress by means of a partnership with the WHO, in an absolutely transparent manner. The proper measures to fight the Aedesaegypti are still in effect, with the backup of three thousand health agents in Rio.
“During the event preparation phase, 51 test events were performed, monitored by the Ministry of Health, and no case of infection resulted from them. Since May 3, the Olympic torch has passed through more than 100 cities, and not a single case has been reported either” he said.
While stating that Brazil has experience in organising big events, he said a similar fear was entertained over the possible epidemic of the dengue fever when Brazil hosted the last World Cup but, only three cases were reported in tourists.
He therefore called on all tourists to feel free to visit the country during the games.
The Olympics is perceived to be the greatest sporting event in the planet and over 200 countries and 500,000 international tourists are expected to be in Brazil for the games.