S$200 fine for homes found breeding mosquitoes from Mar 14

The fine, which is currently imposed only when the home is within a dengue cluster, will be expanded to include all places of residence.
Nadia Jansen Hassan Channel NewsAsia 28 Feb 16;

SINGAPORE: Starting Mar 14, the owners of homes found to be breeding mosquitoes will be fined S$200, regardless whether the home is within a dengue cluster.

Currently, enforcement action is taken only against homes within dengue clusters. The stepping up of enforcement efforts follows projections by the National Environment Agency (NEA) that the number of dengue cases could hit a record 30,000 this year.

This is due to factors such as warmer conditions brought about by the El Nino weather phenomenon, as well as faster breeding and maturation cycles of the Aedes mosquito population.

The move was announced on Sunday (Feb 28) by Environment and Water Resources Minister Masagos Zulkifli. He was speaking at the launch of the Do the Mozzie Wipeout campaign, which took place at the Tampines West Community Club.

"Worse than dengue, there is the threat of Zika among us," said Mr Masagos. "If we can bring down the mosquito population, we will not only mitigate the problem of dengue, but we will at the same time prevent the spread of Zika."

Organised annually by the NEA, the campaign is aimed at rallying the public to take active steps to prevent mosquito breeding over a 14-day period, the equivalent of two breeding cycles.

As part of the campaign, more than 5,000 grassroots leaders and volunteers have been trained to conduct house visits, particularly in areas where there is a higher risk of dengue spreading.

These volunteers will be checking for potential breeding sites, as well as giving residents tips on dengue prevention.

NEA will be training another 5,000 volunteers to carry out such house visits.

- CNA/cy

S$200 fine for all homes found breeding mosquitoes
KENNETH CHENG Today Online 29 Feb 16;

SINGAPORE — Less than two weeks after it warned that Singapore could experience its worst dengue spell this year amid the looming threat of the Zika virus landing here, the Government is taking the fight against the mosquito-borne disease up another notch. From March 14, all homes found to be breeding mosquitoes, instead of only culprits in active dengue clusters, face a S$200 fine, announced Minister for the Environment and Water Resources Masagos Zulkifli on Sunday (Feb 28).

Speaking at the launch of the nationwide Do the Mozzie Wipeout Campaign — brought forward from the typical launch closer to the peak dengue season between June and October — Mr Masagos noted that the majority of mosquito breeding grounds are still found in homes and urged all homeowners to “take this matter seriously”.

“I ... urge all homeowners to take this matter seriously (and) take immediate steps to remove and prevent mosquito breeding. Don’t fall on the wrong side of the law,” he said, adding that the fine quantum could be increased if the latest move has “no effect”, although the current sum was enough as a deterrent from what has been observed.

“From the current enforcement that we’ve been making in the red dengue clusters, we’ve found that for most cases, when we come again the second time, the place is very clean,” said Mr Masagos. The extension of the fine, which comes under the Control of Vectors and Pesticides Act, will stay in place until any review.

The fine was introduced in February 2005 and doubled to the current S$200 in April 2008.

On Feb 18, the authorities had forecast a historic high of 30,000 dengue cases this year, nearly a third higher than the previous record of 22,170 cases in 2013, citing warmer temperatures and a change in the type of dengue virus in circulation as among the factors for the expected surge.

At the same time, Mr Masagos warned that it is “not improbable” that the Zika virus, which has been linked to thousands of cases of a birth defect in Brazil where babies are born with unusually small heads, causing brain damage, could hit Singapore. The virus is also spread by the Aedes aegypti mosquito, which transmits dengue fever.

As of last Friday, there have been more than 400 dengue clusters reported, with 142 of them still active — defined as those that have seen two or more cases within 14 days and are located within 150m of each other.

In total, more than 4,400 dengue cases have been reported this year, an anomalous surge for this time of the year. Last month, Mr Masagos told Parliament more than 1,000 households in dengue clusters were fined for breeding mosquitoes last year.

The latest move comes after the National Environment Agency (NEA) started the Do the Mozzie Wipeout Campaign in 2013, when Singapore had a record number of dengue cases. The authorities have also increased the number of inspections and enforcement checks, as well as introduced stiffer action on construction sites last year.

Last month alone, more than 10 notices to attend court, as well as over 10 stop-work orders, were issued against errant contractors, the NEA said. Since last year, more than 900 notices to attend court and over 100 stop-work orders have been served.

Members of Parliament lauded the move to crack down on mosquito breeding, pointing out that fighting dengue is everyone’s responsibility.

Mr Baey Yam Keng (Tampines GRC) said residents could become more vigilant as a result. “It is a step in the right direction, because ... it should be part of our psyche and DNA to want to play a role in (fighting dengue),” he said.

Calling it a “necessary” step, Dr Lee Bee Wah (Nee Soon GRC) said about three-fifths of mosquito breeding sites in Nee Soon South were found in homes.

“The fine will increase the motivation for everyone to check their homes, whether they’re in a cluster or not,” she said.

While a combination of both fines and outreach efforts is crucial, MPs said more can be done to counter the virus.

Mr Baey said house visits could go further by having volunteers point out potential problem areas, because some residents, especially the elderly, may overlook possible breeding spots and may not fully understand the precautions they must take.

Dr Lee said litter, when not cleaned up, can collect water and breed mosquitoes. “Even though we have cleaners, they cannot clean up every piece of litter ... I hope every Singaporean will pick up litter when they see it, for the safety of themselves and their loved ones,” she said.