Pest control providers faced major challenges during the Covid-19 pandemic and movement restrictions to maintain public safety. – Image courtesy of the Malaysia Pest Management Association

KUALA LUMPUR, August 17 – The Covid-19 pandemic and restricted mobility have presented companies in almost all industries with new challenges.

Pest control providers don’t seem ruled out as rising Covid-19 cases and restricted mobility continue to affect their operations across the country.

Speaking to Malay Mail, the newly elected President of the Malaysia Pest Management Association (MPMA), Regine Lim, expressed concern about the restrictions on pest and pest control activities due to the bans.

Lim said the sector’s service providers were initially given the go-ahead from the Ministry of Health to allow the sector to work, but she said the decision was reversed later after a few days last year.

In her opinion, pest control is one of the most important measures for all types of businesses, residential areas, and the entire community.

“Pest control is required everywhere, especially when there is a lockdown and companies have to shut down for long periods of time.

“When businesses close, pest activity is widespread and the pest emerges more strongly to infect an area,” said Lim, who is also the general manager of Entopest Environmental Services.

Lim also pointed out that pest control providers are in demand from industry, manufacturing, logistics, housing, food and beverage, and the pharmaceutical industry.

“Most of these sectors have been allowed to work and they need us to make sure their environment is safe and hygienic.”

In fact, Lim said that one of the main areas of responsibility for the pest control sector is disinfection and disinfection work.

“We carried out disinfection and disinfection work long before the pandemic.

To date, there are around 1,800 licensed pest control companies in Malaysia.

As the demand for disinfection and disinfection services increased, Lim claimed that some opportunists jumped on the bandwagon and got a smoke machine to take advantage of the current situation and capitalize on the lucrative market.

“We’re not even sure whether the newcomers have the appropriate license and the necessary training to handle the approved chemicals.”

According to Lim, there are several types of disinfectants and disinfectants on the market, some of which are not approved.

“Even among the approved products, only the trained professionals know which chemical should be used for a particular environment.

“We have to analyze the surface to be treated before we select the disinfection chemical and the treatment method for effectiveness.”

If the work is done improperly by incompetent technicians, it can pose a health and safety risk to the public, according to Lim.

Malaysia Pest Management Association exco members during a virtual interview with Malay Mail.  - Image courtesy of the Malaysia Pest Management AssociationMalaysia Pest Management Association exco members during a virtual interview with Malay Mail. – Image courtesy of the Malaysia Pest Management Association

A critical service

Rentokil Initial Managing Director (Malaysia, Philippine and Brunei) Carol Lam said pest control is an important service for the private, public and even government sectors, as well as community safety.

Lam said she was surprised the government did not recognize pest control as an essential service compared to neighboring countries such as Singapore, Brunei and the Philippines, where the sector was classified as essential.

“Indeed, pest control is classified as a critical sector in Indonesia, one level above the essential sector.

“One of the main reasons pest control should be considered a critical service is because we cannot afford to compromise food safety in the supply chain and public health during a pandemic crisis or similar lockdown.”

Lam said the pest control sector is only allowed to act as a support service for the essential businesses here, but the guidelines are unclear.

“Based on clear instructions, the authorities could stop our staff at roadblocks and turn them back.

“We had residential customers complaining about dengue, rats, termites, and household pests, but we couldn’t help.”

Other MPMA-Exco members who expressed concern about the sector were Vice President Alex Kong and Honorary Secretary Intan Noorafniza.

Lam said that most of the smaller pest control companies are mainly focused on the residential areas, but their operations have been impacted due to the restrictions on movement.

Unknown front liners

Given the high number of daily Covid-19 cases, Lam said pest control providers and technicians were at risk of contracting infectious diseases as they often went to high-risk areas to carry out their duties.

When asked if all the frontline workers were vaccinated, Lam said a significant number of the technicians received their vaccinations at a later date.

“That’s because the government didn’t recognize us as frontliners.

“We have written to the government several times to prioritize pest control providers for vaccination, but we have been informed until it is our turn.”

Lam said although recent government efforts to ramp up vaccination have helped the people of Klang Valley, some states like Johor were still lagging behind.

The managing director of Dr. Pest Sdn Bhd in Johor, Suhamdan Salim, said most of its staff have not yet received their first dose of vaccine, despite being over 40 years old.

“I am now considering paying 350 RM per person to have my employees vaccinated as the Covid-19 situation is pretty bad.”

Financial challenges

In addition to the operational challenges, the pest control providers also pointed out the increased operating costs and low income due to the pandemic and restricted mobility.

Selva Rajan, general manager of New Tech Pest Control Sdn Bhd, said they must now equip their employees with full personal protective suits and send them regularly for Covid-19 swab tests.

“All of this creates additional costs for us.”

Overall, Lim estimates that the sector’s operating costs have increased by as much as 30 percent, while the lockdowns and the resulting financial hardship for companies have left him with a significant slump in sales.