'Team Zim safe from Zika'

HARARE - The government insists local athletes representing Zimbabwe at next month’s Olympic Games in Brazil will be safe from the deadly Zika virus.

Speaking at a joint press conference hosted by the ministries of Health and Sports, officials said they would follow strict guidelines issued by the world health institutions.

Health deputy minister Aldrin Musiiwa said the government has been closely monitoring the situation in South America and precautionary measures have since been undertaken.

“Protect yourself from mosquito and other insect bites by using repellents, wear clothes that cover the body and if provided do use mosquito nets,” Musiiwa said.

“Protect yourself from any other diseases including HIV, hepatitis and other sexually transmitted diseases by avoiding casual sex or else use protection. Drink safe water as indicated by the health authorities of the city you will be residing, and pay attention to their other health security and social guidance.

“Pregnant women should be advised not to travel to areas of ongoing Zika virus outbreaks or from the travelling to high risk areas as a precautionary measure. For the females, avoid pregnancy for at least 12 weeks after returning from Brazil and for the men use protection throughout the 21 days of surveillance.

“Once we take these measures we should have a successful sporting event.”

Musiiwa warned that everyone should wear long sleeves and trousers around stagnant water adding that his ministry will also organise surveillance for athletes on their return for a period of 21 days.  

Team Zimbabwe chief medical officer Austin Jeans also played down fears, saying the Games will be held in Brazil’s winter when the cooler, drier weather will reduce the number of mosquitoes.

Jeans said all the travelling athletes will be vaccinated and urged them to take the appropriate precautions adding that they have organised a Zia Pack for them which consists of condoms and mosquito repellent among other things.

“Our athletes are gonna be fully aware and have tools to prevent mosquito and sexual transmission,” Jeans said.

“We have put in measures and once we adhere it is safe for our team to participate. Our at5hletes will be safe.”

Sports minister Makhosini Hlongwane said the after wide consultations the country will send a delegation of 57 people that includes athletes and officials.

A number of leading global sports persons have pulled out of the Games scheduled to start on August 5 due to fears of contracting the mosquito-borne disease.

Top golfers like Rory McIlroy, Jordan Spieth, Jason Day, Adam Scott, Louis Oosthuizen, Charl Schwartzel, Vijay Singh and Zimbabwe’s own Brendon de Jonge have all pulled out of Rio.

They are joined by leading tennis players Milos Raonic, Simona Halep, Tomas Berdych and Karolina Pliskova in boycotting the Games over Zika.

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