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IOC not considering postponing Olympics in Zika-hit Brazil

The International Olympic Committee’s (IOC) medical director, Richard Budgett, has said that the body has not considered postponing or cancelling the 2016 summer Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro due to the outbreak of the Zika virus in Brazil.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has declared Zika to be a global health emergency, with the virus spreading across Latin America, and Brazil in particular. The virus has been linked to cases of microcephaly, which can lead to anomalies during pregnancies. Pregnant women have been advised against travelling to areas hit by the virus, leading to a major headache for organisers of the Games, which will run from August 5-21.

“Our priority is to protect the health of the athletes,” Budgett told the Associated Press news agency. “The IOC absolutely is not complacent. We do take this very seriously. Everything is being done to contain and reduce this problem in the lead-up to the Games.

“Everything that can be done is being done. We can give the reassurance that authorities in Brazil are taking it extremely seriously. Concern and worry is appropriate, but there is no restriction on travel. People need to take measures to avoid being bitten and be sensible. There is no recommendation from health authorities to change travel plans.”

Budgett added that there is no chance of postponing the Games. “Absolutely not,” he said. “No one from the public authorities or WHO or government ministry are actually saying we should even consider cancelling the Games… The IOC are not experts on infectious disease. We follow the experts, and the WHO and the others at the moment say there is absolutely no restriction on travel, but to seek advice if you are pregnant or planning to be.”

Rio 2016 organising committee spokesperson Mario Andrada said that a memo would be sent to National Olympic Committees by the end of the weekend. “Our main job is to calm down everybody,” Andrada said. “The panic is starting (to be) a little too much. We are looking for true facts to make sure we don't generate any unnecessary worries.”

Last week, Rio 2016 organising committee director of medical services Joao Grangeiro (pictured) told a press conference: “The preventive measures are being intensified, with systematic inspections of not only the sporting facilities but also in potential mosquito breeding areas in Rio de Janeiro."