EVEN AS the World Health Organisation (WHO) declared the Zika virus an international emergency yesterday, officials of the Trinidad and Tobago Olympic Committee were in Brazil seeking to learn, among other things, what measures are being put in place to protect the nation’s athletes from the virus during the August 5-21 Summer Games in Rio de Janeiro.
TTO C president Brian Lewis said yesterday that Secretary-General Annette Knott and Chef de Mision Dr Ian Hypolite left for Brazil on Sunday to review possible venues related to the preparation of the TT squad.
“The focus is the training camp, the pre-games training camp and a meeting with organisers to get a sense of some details, including (the Zika virus situation),” Lewis told Newsday.
He added that Knott and Hypolite would also be meeting with officials of the local organising committee “to get a sense of exactly whats happening.” The two are expected to return later this week, when their reports would be reviewed.
In the meantime, Lewis said he could not comment on possible effects the threat of the virus could have on the running of the games.
“At this point in time, it would be a bit premature for me to speculate on that; I await the return of Secretary General Knott and Chef de Mision Hypolite and their reports, and then certainly we would be issuing the appropriate statements,” he said.
“Most certainly, athlete welfare remains a priority to the TTO C.
“Based on the information we would also discuss it with out chief medical officer which is Dr Terry Ali and whoever we need to discuss it.” Lewis added that in Knott and Hypolite, the TTO C had two very experienced individuals on the ground in Brazil.
Asked whether the TTO C will consider restricting athletes’ mobility to the Games Village, the TTO C boss insisted that he will be able to comment further once the report from Knott and Dr Hypolite is tabled.
The WHO had convened an emergency meeting of independent experts in Geneva to assess the outbreak after noting a suspicious link between Zika’s arrival in Brazil last year and a surge in the number of babies born with abnormally small heads.
“After a review of the evidence, the committee advised that the clusters of microcephaly and other neurological complications constitute an extraordinary event and public health threat to other parts of the world,” WHO Director-General Margaret Chan said.
The WHO estimates there could be up to four million cases of Zika in the Americas in the next year, but no recommendations were made to restrict travel or trade.
Zika has already been reported in Jamiaca whose Health Ministry has advised women against getting pregnant currently.
On Friday, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) advised national Olympic committees to follow the WHO’s guidance on dealing with the virus ahead of the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, asserting its confidence that the games will be safe.
“All parties are taking action to address this topic, and are following developments closely,” the IOC said.
“We remain confident that there will be a safe environment for successful and enjoyable games in Rio de Janeiro,” the statement concluded.