NEA to carry out two-week intensive islandwide vector control exercise to combat dengue outbreak

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Workers adjust the jet sprays during the process of cleaning and flushing the drains at Block 408 Bukit Batok West Avenue 4 on July 24, 2020. ST PHOTO: CHONG JUN LIANG

SINGAPORE - To combat the unprecedented dengue outbreak this year, the National Environment Agency (NEA) will be embarking on a two-week intensive islandwide vector control exercise, the agency announced on Friday (July 24).

Inspections and vector control operations in Town Council-managed common areas will be stepped up to ensure drains are well-maintained, areas are kept litter-free, and stagnant water is removed or treated. NEA said Housing Board estates account for 45 per cent of active clusters.

The exercise will also include chemical treatment - such as fogging, misting and larviciding - in dengue clusters to shrink the adult mosquito population.

From January to June this year, NEA detected 50 per cent more Aedes mosquitoes in Town Council-managed areas compared to the first six months last year.

There was also a 30 per cent increase in the Aedes mosquito population detected from May to June this year, compared to February and March.

With Singapore in the midst of the warmer months of the year, NEA is expecting the high mosquito numbers to persist.

MP for Mountbatten Lim Biow Chuan said some key measures his ward will undertake over the next fortnight include desilting and cleaning drains, oiling gully traps and drains containing stagnant water that cannot be removed, and sealing up inspection chambers and keyholes to prevent mosquitoes from entering and laying eggs.

"We carried out fogging with NEA at Dakota Crescent yesterday (Thursday) and Balam Road estate today. Next week, it will be done at Chai Chee and progressively to other clusters within the ward," said Mr Lim.

Dakota Crescent, Balam Road and Chai Chee are red zones, which are high-risk areas with 10 or more cases.

To date, there are close to 20,000 cases this year with a record 1,733 dengue cases reported last week, the highest number of weekly dengue cases recorded in Singapore. The previous highest weekly infection number was 891 in 2014.

Last week was the sixth consecutive week for which the weekly number of reported dengue cases exceeded 1,000.

The total number of cases this year is expected to exceed the 22,170 cases reported in 2013, the highest in history, said NEA. Nineteen people have died of dengue so far this year.

Calling the extent of the dengue outbreak this year "very worrying", Senior Minister of State for the Environment and Water Resources Amy Khor emphasised the need for collective and urgent community efforts to prevent the situation from worsening.

Dr Khor was speaking to the media at the sidelines of vector control operations in Bukit Batok West Avenue 4 on Friday.

"The idea (of the intensive islandwide exercise) really is to reduce the mosquito population and break the chain of dengue transmission so that we can flatten the curve as it was to reduce and prevent the number of dengue cases from escalating again," she said.

Senior Minister of State for Environment and Water Resources Amy Khor tries her hand at oiling the drains at Block 408 Bukit Batok West Avenue 4 on July 24, 2020. ST PHOTO: CHONG JUN LIANG

As of July 23, there were 424 active dengue clusters, with five large ones. The largest cluster in the Aljunied-Geylang area has 276 cases. The Bukit Panjang Ring Road cluster is the second largest with 272 cases.

Some clusters, including the ones at Aljunied Road-Geylang Road, the 258-case cluster at Arthur Road, and the 195-case cluster at Arnasalam Chetty Road/Kim Yam Road, have faster rate of disease transmission with an average of two to three cases reported daily over the past two weeks.

Five clusters including Woodleigh Close, Bidadari Park Drive/Woodleigh Link, and Alkaff Crescent, have been closed.

So far, about 140 summonses and three Stop Work Orders have been issued to construction sites for mosquito breeding offences.

At the same time, more than 2,000 enforcement actions were taken against owners of premises.

Five contractors will be charged in court for repeat offences.
During the two-week exercise, NEA will work closely with grassroots advisers and volunteers to advise more residents to get rid of mosquito breeding habitats at home.

As most people are working from home, Dr Khor also reminded residents living in dengue-clustered areas to spray insecticide in the dark corners of their homes, apply mosquito repellent every three hours, and wear long sleeves and pants as much as possible.

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