Government to consult before deciding on Kenya's participation at the Olympics

The Sports and the Health Ministries will consult over the Zika virus before making a decision about Kenya’s participation at the Olympics.

Tuesday February 9 2016

Kenya's flag bearer Jason Dunford holds the national flag as he leads the Kenyan contingent in the athletes parade during the opening ceremony of the London 2012 Olympic Games on July 27, 2012. The Sports and the Health Ministries will consult over the Zika virus before making a decision about Kenya’s participation at this year's Olympics Games scheduled for August in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. PHOTO | MIKE BLAKE |

Kenya's flag bearer Jason Dunford holds the national flag as he leads the Kenyan contingent in the athletes parade during the opening ceremony of the London 2012 Olympic Games on July 27, 2012. The Sports and the Health Ministries will consult over the Zika virus before making a decision about Kenya’s participation at this year's Olympics Games scheduled for August in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. PHOTO | MIKE BLAKE | REUTERS

By AYUMBA AYODI
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The Sports and the Health Ministries will consult over the mosquito-borne Zika virus before making a decision about Kenya’s participation at the Olympics Games due for August in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

Sports cabinet secretary Hassan Wario, who appeared before Senate Labour and Social Welfare Committee said that he can only make an "apt decision" upon the advise from the Health ministry.

Wario noted that the government's priority will be on the health of the athletes but hastened that Kenya does not participate at the Olympics in isolation.

Wario told the committee that the World Health Organisation (WHO) is also be better placed to advise on the situation in Brazil.

(READ: Women urged to avoid Olympics over Zika)

Sports Commissioner Gordon Oluoch, who attended the meeting explained that there was nothing alarming at the moment.

“We really don’t need to panic and I call on our sports men and women to continue with their preparations,” said Oluoch.

Kenya’s Rio Olympics chef de mission Stephen Soi also said it was too early to make any pronouncement since consultations were still ongoing the International Olympic Committee (IOC) supreme organ.

“The IOC Medical Commission is still on top of things hence we can only talk upon communication from the Commission,” said Soi.

The outbreak of the mosquito-borne disease in South America is being linked to severe birth defects.

OLYMPIC GAMES TO PROCEED

Last week WHO declared the virus a global public health emergency but IOC indicated that Rio Olympic Games will not be cancelled and the mosquito-borne Zika virus will not affect the Games.

IOC President Thomas Bach on Monday expressed confidence that there will be good conditions for athletes and spectators at the Rio Games in August, despite the explosive spread of the Zika virus across the Americas.

However, pregnant women have been urged not to travel to Brazil for the Olympics because of the risk posed by the virus.

"The risk, which I would say is serious, is for pregnant women. It is clearly not advisable for you to travel to the Games because you don't want to take that risk," he said.

The unprecedented warning, issued just over six months before the opening ceremony in Rio de Janeiro, came after the WHO declared an emergency over the virus, suspected of causing microcephaly, or abnormally small heads, in babies.

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