Written Reply by Ms Grace Fu, Minister for Sustainability and the Environment, to Parliamentary Question on Rat Sightings since Circuit Breaker, on 5 October 2020
Ms Tin Pei Ling: To ask the Minister for Sustainability and the Environment whether there has been an increase in rat sightings since the circuit breaker period and what measures are in place to address them.
During the circuit breaker period in April and May 2020, an average of about 350 instances of feedback on rat sightings were reported each month. Of these, an average of 23 instances of feedback were received by the Singapore Food Agency (SFA) in relation to sightings at food establishments monthly, while the rest were received by the National Environment Agency (NEA) in relation to sightings at other public spaces. The instances of feedback on rat sightings in July and August have reverted to about 500 per month, which is in line with pre-circuit breaker levels. The dip in feedback on rat sightings during the circuit breaker period could have been due to no dining-in at food and beverage outlets and that fewer people were out and about.
To keep the incidence of rat infestation low, NEA carries out islandwide surveillance to identify places which can attract rats, such as bin chutes where food waste is not well-managed. The surveillance information is shared with relevant government agencies and Town Councils (TCs) so that they can take preventive measures, such as improving housekeeping and conducting rat proofing works. NEA incentivises TCs with funding under the Rat Attack Programme to implement customised rat control measures in public housing estates. NEA also conducts regular inspections to ensure that agencies, TCs and premises owners implement adequate rat control measures and proper waste management practices, and will take enforcement action against them for any rat infestation.
Similarly, SFA requires operators of food establishments to keep their premises clean and free of pest infestations, including rats. Operators must have a pest control contract to ensure that their premises are free of pest infestation. It is also their responsibility to keep their premises clean and well-maintained; and failure to do so constitutes an offence. Repeated offences or serious offences can result in suspension or even cancellation of the food establishment’s licence. SFA conducts regular inspections at food establishments to ensure that they comply with food hygiene and safety, including keeping their premises free from rat infestation. These inspections continued during the circular breaker period. From January to August 2020, more than 40,000 inspections were conducted on food establishments.
While we keep up the rat surveillance and control measures in Singapore, all stakeholders have the responsibility to institute a robust system of housekeeping, refuse management and regular pest control checks and treatment. Members of the public, operators of food establishments, and businesses are advised to store food properly in covered containers, not to leave food or food waste behind, and to bag, tie and properly dispose of food waste into covered bins.