Written reply by Mr Masagos Zulkifli, Minister for the Environment and Water Resources, to Parliamentary Question on Dengue Control during COVID-19, on 4 May 2020
Mr Murali Pillai: To ask the Minister for the Environment and Water Resources what are the additional plans to tackle and bring down the expected high number of dengue cases so as not to overwhelm the healthcare service providers who are currently heavily engaged in the fight against the COVID-19 outbreak.
1 The total number of dengue cases in 2020 has exceeded 6,000 so far – more than double that over the same period in 2019. The number of weekly dengue cases remains high, hovering at around 300 to 400 cases per week, and the total number of dengue cases is projected to exceed the 16,000 cases in 2019. To manage the expected increase in cases as we approach the traditional peak dengue season, NEA’s dengue operations are continuing during this circuit breaker period. NEA has also called for all stakeholders to take concerted action to suppress the Aedes mosquito population.
2 Regular housekeeping and maintenance of premises and common areas are crucial to curb dengue transmission. Raising the standards of personal and public hygiene are not only critical for our defence against COVID-19, they also mitigate the spread of dengue.
3 Good housekeeping at residential premises is critical, especially as more people are working from home. NEA has observed a 50 per cent increase in Aedes mosquito breeding in homes over the past three years, compared to the preceding three years. NEA therefore brought forward the launch of the National Dengue Prevention campaign to 22 March to rally the community to be vigilant in carrying out the Mozzie Wipeout to remove potential mosquito breeding habitats. Homeowners of landed houses are also urged to check their roof gutters and perimeter drains in their compounds for potential mosquito breeding habitats.
4 NEA is working closely with stakeholders in the Inter-Agency Dengue Task Force, including Town Councils, to remove potential mosquito breeding habitats in public areas and housing estates. Despite increased demands on the cleaning sector arising from the ongoing COVID-19 situation, NEA has worked with our cleaning service providers and Town Councils to ensure that cleaning of higher footfall areas and flushing of drains are not compromised, and even stepped up as necessary.
5 Even though businesses are closed during the circuit breaker period, NEA requires owners of premises and work sites to continue with proactive vector control measures. Pest control operators are allowed to continue operating during the circuit breaker period. Owners of premises, especially construction and renovation sites which have a propensity for water pooling that allows for larger mosquito breeding habitats, should apply for “Time-Limited Exemptions” for their workers to return to their premises to perform essential mosquito prevention measures during this period.
6 NEA has also embarked on a stepped-up inspection regime of construction sites, prioritising hotspots which are located in dengue clusters or have a previous record of mosquito breeding. NEA has reached out to members of the Singapore Contractors Association Ltd. and operators of dormitories to sustain their vector control works. This posture will be maintained for the entire duration of the Circuit Breaker period.
7 All stakeholders, residents, contractors and business owners, have a part to play in preventing dengue. Everyone must step up efforts to eradicate mosquito breeding habitats together, uphold good personal and public hygiene, to protect themselves and their loved ones from dengue and COVID-19.