LOS ANGELES, Feb 1 (Reuters) - International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach has welcomed measures being taken to tackle the mosquito-borne Zika virus and believes the spread of the virus across South America will not adversely affect the Rio de Janeiro Games in August.
While applauding the World Health Organization’s declaration that the virus was an international public health emergency, Bach said he was confident athletes would feel safe travelling to Brazil for global sport’s showpiece.
“We welcome this decision by the World Health Organisation (WHO) because it helps raise even more awareness and to provide even more resources to fight the virus,” Bach told reporters at the University of California, Los Angeles on Monday.
“We are in the close contact with the WHO and we see also that so far there is no travel ban being pronounced by the WHO.
“We also see that the Olympic Games will be taking place in the winter time which is not the preferred breeding time for the mosquitoes,” Bach said after meeting with members of LA24, the group trying to bring the 2024 Summer Games to Los Angeles.
Rio 2016 organisers have said the Games, from Aug. 5-21, will be during Brazil’s winter months when a “dryer, cooler climate significantly reduces the presence of mosquitoes”.
WHO Director-General Margaret Chan told reporters earlier on Monday that an international coordinated response was needed, although restrictions on travel or trade were not necessary.
The emergency designation was recommended by a committee of independent experts to the United Nations agency following criticism of a hesitant response so far. The move should help fast-track international action and research priorities.
The WHO said last week the Zika virus, linked to birth defects in thousands of babies, was “spreading explosively” and could infect as many as 4 million people in the Americas.
“We are in contact not only with the WHO but we are in contact also with the organising committee, we are in contact with all the 206 national Olympics committees around the world,” said Bach.
“They, in turn, are in contact with the national health authorities and all this makes us very confident that at the time of the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro there will be good conditions for all athletes and all spectators.”
Asked by Reuters whether he had any concern that some athletes might choose not to compete in Rio because of the Zika virus, Bach replied: “No, I don’t see this because of all the measures which have been taken, and because of the time.
“There remains six months to tackle this problem and the determination of the WHO, by the Brazilian authorities, by the organising committee, I think all this will convince the athletes to come to Rio de Janeiro and to celebrate these Olympic Games all together.” (Editing by Frank Pingue)