By Lise Alves, Senior Contributing Reporter
SÃO PAULO, BRAZIL – Less than a month before the start of the 2016 Olympics, Brazilian government officials are still trying to dissipate fears of the contagion of Zika virus in Rio de Janeiro. Health Minister, Ricardo Barros, met with over sixty ambassadors and country representatives on Tuesday (July 12th) to give them an update on the government’s efforts to combat the Zika-infected mosquito.
“Our goal is that these representatives recommend to their athletes, coaches and tourists to attend the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro,” stated Barros in a press conference after the meeting.
Barros took the opportunity to emphasize to the foreign representatives that the risk of infection by Zika virus to athletes and tourists will be minimal during the period of the Games.
According to health officials the decline of the Zika infection rate has been so significant since May that U.S. computer models show that by the start of the Olympics Zika incidences will have dropped to almost zero.
According to news agency Agencia Brasil, Minister Barros has even sent letters to all those athletes who have publicly announced they would not participate in the Games due to fear of Zika infection, asking them to reconsider coming to Rio.
“To all who, through the media, I see are in doubt about participating, I have sent letters with data informing of the actions taken. It is important that we have here all the athletes at their best [performance], so that the Olympics can identify the best athletes in the world,” Barros was quoted as saying.
The minister said that federal government has gone to extreme measures to ensure that all athletes are safe at the Olympic village. “They will have at their disposal special clothing and [mosquito] repellents,” the minister told reporters.
More than 17,000 athletes and half a million visitors are expected to attend the Olympic and Paralympic Games.