Alliance formed to combat rat infestation

May 16, 2019 16:50
The alliance believes that all districts in the city must join the effort to eliminate the rat menace. Photo: HKEJ

Councilors from three districts affected by rat infestation formed an alliance on Wednesday to double down efforts in combating the growing health menace.

The move came a day after health authorities said three elderly men were found to have contracted the rat hepatitis E virus and one of them had died.

The alliance, launched by several District Council members from Kowloon City, Sham Shui Po and Yau Tsim Mong districts, will enlist volunteers from the three areas to help in stamping out the rodent infestation, the Hong Kong Economic Journal reports.

Alliance convener Jacky Lee Chiu-yu, from the Business and Professionals Alliance for Hong Kong (BPA), accused the government of not doing enough to eliminate the problem.

He also raised doubts on government figures showing the overall rodent infestation rate in the city was only 3.4 percent, lower than the 3.5 percent a year earlier.

The Food and Environmental Hygiene Department (FEHD), which is responsible for compiling the index, considers rat infestation serious only when it reaches 10 percent, Lee said.

He noted that the department uses potatoes as bait to monitor the extent of the infestation, but rats would not bother with the bait because there are too many types of food on the streets that they find more attractive.

BPA lawmaker Priscilla Leung Mei-fun, who initiated the alliance, said the fight against rodent infestation would only be effective if all the districts joined the effort as rats could easily move from one district that is actively eradicating them to another that is not.

The government should be deploying rat catchers who have actual experience in doing the job rather than people who just talk about theories based on studies abroad, RTHK quoted Leung as saying.

A survey conducted between May 3 and 10 by the alliance showed that 64.8 percent of the 1,207 respondents claimed that they had witnessed appearances of rats in the past six months.

The rodents were mostly spotted in eateries and housing estates, which accounted for 25.2 and 20.6 percent of the sightings, respectively.

Asked what they thought about the government's performance in controlling rodents, more than half of the respondents said it was average while 32.7 percent said they were either not satisfied or very unsatisfied.

The alliance said it will invite a rat-catching expert from Guangzhou to come to Hong Kong to teach people how to effectively trap rats.

Meanwhile, the FEHD said in a statement it is very concerned about rodent infestation in different districts and has been adopting multi-pronged strategies, including improving environmental hygiene, rodent disinfestation and enforcement action.

A spokesman for the department said its officers on Wednesday conducted inspections in the housing estates where the three latest rat hepatitis E patients resided.

The inspections were conducted along with representatives of the Housing Department, property management companies of the affected private housing estates, and other concerned parties.

The FEHD and Housing Department officers also provided professional advice and technical guidance on the prevention and control of rodent infestation, including stepping up refuse clearing work, proper ways of placing baits and traps, methods of destroying rat holes and improving rodent proofing measures in buildings.

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