Editor’s note: The Federation of Asian & Oceania Pest Managers Associations held its Pest Summit virtually last week. UK-based freelance journalist Frances McKim filed the following report for PCT.

MANILA, The Philippines –  Forced by the current coronavirus pandemic to hold its annual Pest Summit Nov. 18-19 as a virtual event, it was appropriate the organizers, FAOPMA (Federation of Asian & Oceania Pest Managers Associations) chose as its title “Survive Covid-19, Protect Your Future.” Over 1,000 delegates registered from across the world.

In his keynote address, Dr. Chow-Yang Lee, from the University of California, Riverside said he felt the COVID-19 pandemic was the largest single threat humanity has had to face since World War II. Climate change may well be the greatest danger to the long-term health of the planet, but the onset of this pandemic was just so sudden and so drastic for everyone. 

Lee predicted that 200 million people could be infected worldwide before an effective vaccine is available. But how has this COVID-19 crisis impacted upon the urban pest environment?

Pest behavior has changed. With the closure of shops and restaurants, rat activity has become more visible, as has their level of aggression as they seek and fight for food. With home owners are not keen to admit pest professionals, German cockroach numbers have risen.

COVID-19 has changed the landscape of the pest management business and this is likely to become the new normal. Disinfection services will remain in demand, home owners will remain reluctant to admit pest controllers for treatments, PPE will be mandatory and non-contact, or contact-less, pest management services will be in demand. 

The future?

On the positive side, Lee pointed out that from every crisis springs opportunities. Now is the moment to invest in artificial intelligence (AI) monitoring technology as this reduces human-to-human contact. Termite control insurance policies, similar to car insurance policies, could be offered. Tele-pest control, similar to the now popular telemedicine, could be offered as this too reduces personal visits. Another opportunity is the use of e-hailing systems, similar to the likes of Uber, with a response time of around 30 minutes. A suitable platform would need to be created and only licensed PCOs could join. 

Finally, Lee calls for all pest management associations to work together on a global basis, as has begun with the Global Pest Management Alliance, free of political ideology, to create unified online training programs relevant to their region.

In total there were over 20 presentations from experts from across the region all addressing some aspect of Covid-19. These are all available to access online from the FAOPMA Summit website for the next year. The event was also supported by a virtual exhibition.