Pregnant women have been urged not to travel to support Irish athletes at the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro.
Foreign Affairs Minister Charlie Flanagan said more than 1,000 Irish fans are expected to make the journey to Brazil as he issued a caution about the zika virus.
He said he hopes visitors to Rio enjoy the Games and that Ireland brings home “a large number of medals”.
A number of sportspeople, including Rory McIlroy, have cancelled their attendance because of the zika virus, which has been linked to women giving birth to babies with defects.
Mr Flanagan said: “We expect up to 1,000 Irish fans will travel to Rio for the Olympics, and expect to see more of the same exemplary behaviour we saw from Irish soccer fans in France at the Euros.
“Our primary concern is obviously with the safety of all those who travel. With this in mind, a temporary consulate will be operational in Rio de Janeiro for the duration of the Games, offering round-the-clock support to Irish citizens.”
Asked about the recent terrorist attacks in Nice and Paris, he said Irish travellers should exercise “all due caution” when travelling in Brazil, and follow local police advice.
“Obviously security and internal affairs matters are ones for the Brazilian government and authorities,” said Mr Flanagan.
Asked about the issue of Irish athletes cancelling their attendance at the games, he said the advice of the Department of Foreign Affairs was primarily aimed at women of child-bearing age.
Irish ambassadorial teams in Brasilia and Sao Paulo are on standby for fans and have put on additional staff. A Garda officer has also been sent to Rio. Travellers have also been advised to download the new smartphone app Travelwise.
Mr Flanagan said: “With regard to zika, our advice is based on the HSE’s expert advice, and we are recommending that women who are pregnant or who are trying to become pregnant should consider postponing their travel.
“That said, we are following the WHO’s advice, who don’t feel that zika presents the kind of public health risk to justify postponing or cancelling the Rio Games. We urge that appropriate care is taken by visitors to protect themselves from mosquito bites, and that people exercise a normal degree of caution in general.”
Coverage of the opening ceremony of the Olympic Games begins tomorrow.
Concerned Irish fans in Brazil should phone +55 613 248 8800, or 01 4082000 in Dublin, or check dfa.ie for details
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