Some eateries have stopped using pest control services during the circuit breaker period, raising the spectre of another outbreak even as Singapore battles the coronavirus.
Pest control operators said a handful of restaurants, eateries and coffee shops in shopping malls and Housing Board estates across the island have stopped using their services, and warned that a pest outbreak is imminent.
Mr Edwin Kwek, solutions specialist at PestWerkz Solutions, told The Straits Times about a dozen of his clients in the food and beverage (F&B) industry have stopped using his services - some in a bid to cut costs and others because they are shuttered during the circuit breaker period.
Other pest control operators ST spoke to also said a portion of their clients have stopped the monthly checks, which consist of checking for signs of rodents, cockroaches and flies, and putting in place preventive measures such as rodent glue traps.
Dr Hwang Wei Song, entomologist at National University of Singapore's Lee Kong Chian Natural History Museum, pointed out that since places where food is stored, prepared and binned are the main source of food for pests, the potential impact of stopping pest control services is dependent on how the F&B outlets store food and manage waste, and on their general hygiene.
Mr Bernard Chan, founder of pest buster Eficaz, noted shops that are closed during this period might be at higher risk of pest infestation. His teams recorded more pest sightings in most closed F&B units just a few days after the circuit breaker started.
He said: "With no human activity, it's easier for pests like cockroaches and rats to 'claim' more territory.
"Even with fewer food sources around, I believe they will find a way. Cockroaches can survive with a minimal amount of food debris, while rats can gnaw through packaging in order to access food."
In response to queries, the Singapore Food Agency said food shop operators, including businesses shut during the circuit breaker period, must engage pest control services at least once a month to ensure their premises are pest-free.
It said: "Under the Environmental Public Health (Food Hygiene) Regulations, it is an offence if food shop operators fail to keep their premises free of pest infestation."
Mr Dellen Soh, chief executive of Minor Food Group Singapore, said pest control services have gone on as usual in the group's 60-odd F&B outlets islandwide, including those that are shut during this period.
"Rats don't know that the restaurant is closed; they will still roam around. If you continue to do maintenance, they won't dare to come."