Coronavirus: Calls for Belfast Council pest control to return

By Jayne McCormack
BBC News NI Political Reporter

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There have been calls for Belfast City Council's pest control service to resume household visits.

It stopped at the start of the Covid-19 lockdown due to public health guidelines.

A woman who lives in east Belfast told BBC News NI she caught 23 mice in her home during lockdown and has struggled to get help from the council.

The council said it is "actively reviewing" resources as part of its phased reopening of services.

Janette Connor told Radio Ulster's Evening Extra programme that she first spotted a mouse in her house in February, and when she contacted the council was told there would be a six-week wait for pest control staff to come out.

'I need the council'

She said she was catching two or three a week and caught 23 alone during the first few months of lockdown.

"I paid for private pest control and they caught more mice, but they said because I lived in a terraced house, I'd need the council to address it for the street", she said.

"They said due to Covid restrictions everything was closed but as services started to resume, I assumed pest control would too but when we contacted the council we were just told to buy mouse traps.

"When you've got to the point of contacting pest control, these are things you've tried."

Suspended

Belfast City Council is the only council in Northern Ireland that offers a free pest control service, but it said it has temporarily suspended the service and no appointments will be taken at this time.

In a statement it said: "We continue to carry out street cleaning and targeted sewer baiting of public sewers to control the control of rat activity within the city.

"Home owners can access advice and support around treatments online on our website and there are also pest control services offered commercially."

Also speaking on Evening Extra, Alliance councillor Michelle Kelly said through discussions with council officials she understood there was an intention "to ramp up services in terms of outside spaces".

"I know there are obviously a number of competing priorities with regards to operational recovery," she said.

"There would be a need to ensure that there are sufficient staff.

"There might be a number that are needing to self-isolate, and so on.

"To me I think it is hard to understand at this point at least why outside services couldn't resume."

'Terrified of mice'

Ms Connor said some of her neighbours were having bigger problems. with some having to replace flooring in their homes.

"There obviously is a problem, I'm worried if we don't get it resolved," she said.

"I'm terrified of mice and was getting really anxious, every time you heard them scratching in the ceiling. Every noise makes you worry they are back again.

"To tell us to contact private pest control doesn't make sense when I've already paid for that and tried my best - how can private pest control come into your home, when council pest control can't?"

She added that she would like the council to provide more advice or different ways to deal with the issue.

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