Bats flying into Boon Keng Road HDB units do not carry infectious strains of coronavirus: Josephine Teo

Manpower Minister Josephine Teo said NParks officers taught the residents how to deter bats from flying into their units. PHOTOS: JOSEPHINE TEO/FACEBOOK, MARCUS CHUA

SINGAPORE - The bats that have been flying into some residents' homes in Block 14 Upper Boon Keng Road do not possess virulent strains of coronavirus, Minister for Manpower and Second Minister for Home Affairs Josephine Teo said on Thursday (Sept 10).

Mrs Teo, who is MP for Jalan Besar GRC where the block is located, said some residents had alerted her to the bats, which live in nearby fruit trees.

Since the start of the Covid-19 outbreak, people have grown concerned about the presence of bats, a source of the coronavirus.

A World Health Organisation (WHO) scientist said in May that Sars-CoV-2, which causes Covid-19, comes from a group of viruses that originate or spread in bats.

In February, The Straits Times reported that the authorities here were receiving more bat-related reports than usual, with some people worried they may catch the coronavirus from the creatures.

At the time, one person reportedly threw a live bat down a rubbish chute.

Similar concerns appear to have been present among the Boon Keng residents.

Addressing this in a Facebook post, Mrs Teo said: "Our residents were concerned about the possibility of bats being disease carriers and not knowing the proper way to 'usher' these 'guests' out of their homes."

She added that her team contacted the National Parks Board (NParks), which arranged for an officer and a bat research specialist to visit the affected residents.

They assured residents that the bats do not possess virulent strains of coronavirus and shared about the important ecological roles of bats as pollinators and in controlling insect populations.

Mrs Teo said that the officers also taught residents how to deter bats from flying into their units through methods such as hanging shiny objects like CDs at entrance points, and installing a magnetic fly mesh or insect netting at the windows.

The town council had also helped to prune the fruit trees growing nearby to encourage the bats to create their homes away from residential units.

"I hope that our residents are more assured, and have better ideas how to prevent future occurrence(s) of such unwelcomed visits," she wrote.

She encouraged those who encounter similar issues to call the NParks Animal Management Centre on 1800-476-1600 for immediate assistance.

ST has contacted NParks for further information on the bats.

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