Hong Kong authorities met industry representatives on Saturday to discuss measures to prevent bedbugs spreading to the city, a day after an online photo purportedly of one of the pests on an Airport Express train seat went viral.
Rail giant the MTR Corporation, meanwhile, said starting this week the cleaning of trains would be stepped up on select lines with a focus on non-metallic seats – where bedbug infestations were more likely to occur.
The Environment and Ecology Bureau said it held a meeting with the Airport Authority, rail giant the MTR Corporation and the Tourism Commission, as well as with other government departments and industry representatives, after the recent emergence of bedbugs overseas had caused concern among the public.
The bureau said it was briefed on measures taken to prevent the spread of the pests at potential hotspots including the airport, hotels, the Kai Tak Cruise Terminal and Airport Express.
The Food and Environmental Hygiene Department and the Centre for Health Protection’s port health division also provided “technical advice” to the industry representatives on how to prevent infestations.
“We thanked the sectors for their prompt response and for taking proactive measures, including conducting deep cleansing and disinfestation as well as strengthening anti-bedbug work, for safeguarding our first line of defence concertedly,” said Diane Wong Shuk-han, the acting secretary for environment and ecology.
She said the government would continue to pay close attention to the situation, strengthen communication with frontline organisations and industries, and provide technical support and coordinate efforts from all sectors to prevent the import of bedbugs.
Lawmakers on Friday called on the government to step up efforts to prevent any possible spread of the pest, after the bedbug photo went viral online. Pest control consultant Henry Cheng Kwok-hang said the insect in the photo was a bedbug of the Cimex lectularius species.
The Post was unable to immediately verify the authenticity of the image.
The MTR Corp, which operates the Airport Express, said it had carried out deep cleaning of the train after a passenger made a report at around 9pm. But the company said no insects similar to the one seen in the photo were found.
In an updated statement on Saturday, the firm said it would step up inspections and cleaning of trains, with a focus on the Airport Express, high-speed rail, Disneyland Resort line and East Rail first-class carriages.
“As a public health concern, especially under the risks of possible importation of bedbugs recently, we must do well to control it in all aspects,” the company said.
The department said it would continue to ramp up educational efforts at locations such as the airport to tell visitors and returnees how to prevent the spread of the insect.
Bedbugs are small, oval-shaped parasitic insects of a reddish-brown colour that suck the blood of mammals. Bedbug bites can be red, swollen and itchy.
They are mainly nocturnal and usually found within mattresses, cracks in bedframes, upholstery, chairs and sofas.
South Korea is the latest country to scramble to stop the pests from spreading in places such as train stations, cinemas and university dormitories.
Urban centres in Europe, including London and Paris, have also been struggling to combat the resurgent insect.