As South Korea experiences a post-pandemic tourism surge, the nation is contending with bedbug outbreaks, prompting locals to avoid public transport and cinemas to evade the bloodsucking pests. Hygiene authorities are urging international travellers, particularly from regions like France and Britain where bedbug outbreaks have been reported, to thoroughly disinfect their belongings. “Those who might have been exposed to bedbugs while travelling abroad should thoroughly sterilise their travel accessories,” the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency said in a statement.
Concerns about the pests hitching a ride to other locations have led to heightened vigilance, with authorities emphasising the importance of preventive measures to curb the spread of bedbugs in the midst of increased travel activity.
How is South Korea battling the bedbug crisis?
To combat the bedbug infestation, the South Korean government is initiating a comprehensive four-week campaign.
This effort includes inspections and pest control measures at “vulnerable” public facilities like bathhouses, dormitories, and child care facilities. Immediate disinfection is implemented in places where bedbugs are suspected. However, the People Power Party in South Korea has expressed reservations about disclosing the specific locations of bedbug presence due to concerns about potential “secondary damage” resulting from such disclosure. The decision to reveal these locations is currently under review by the party.
As of Tuesday, November 7, South Korea has confirmed 30 cases of bedbugs, with more than half in Seoul, as per Reuters. The country had almost gotten rid of bedbugs in the 1960s, but now the government has allocated £312 million (almost Rs 2 Cr) and formed a special team to tackle the issue. They expect more cases and urge people not to be embarrassed about reporting sightings.
A government official mentioned that the reported cases of bedbugs to authorities are expected to rise in the future. “There are perceptions that bedbugs are attributable to individuals and some refrain from filing a report on concerns it may be seen as a sign of bad hygiene. The number of reports is expected to increase,” the official said, as per a local news channel.
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