The rat infestation which for years has plagued the commercial district of New Kingston seems to be under control, at least for now.
Chief public health inspector for Kingston and St Andrew, Everton Baker, reported last week that other sections of the Corporate Area have also seen a reduction in the rodent population.
"There have been significant improvements, especially in New Kingston," said Baker as he addressed an Editors' Forum at The Gleaner's North Street, Kingston, offices.
According to Baker, the restaurant operators in New Kingston have played their part in getting rid of the rats.
"The restaurants used to have open skips and now they have closed skips, as well as the erection of fences, because there used to be certain common areas; but now these areas have been fenced in not only to prevent the rats but to also keep out the street people who dig into the waste."
Baker expressed appreciation for the recent media exposure of the rat problem, as he noted that this sparked a strong response.
"When issues that are deemed negative are raised it brings about a positive reaction, a new level of consciousness ...," said Baker.
He noted that to complement the work of the restaurant operators the Public Health Department has played its role.
"We go in, as well, and we condemn some restaurants when they don't do things correctly.
"If we go into a restaurant and see foods that are contaminated and should not be served, then we remove that from the restaurant and ensure that they are properly disposed of," said Baker.
He pointed to the multimillion-dollar programme launched by the Government in May and which is still being implemented to combat the rat problem.
That islandwide programme is estimated to cost $100 million and follows other rat-eradication measures attempted, particularly in New Kingston in recent years.
In June 2001, the Health Department carried out a six-week rat-eradication programme in New Kingston that cost nearly $1 million.
Prior to that, an assault on the rodents was done in late 1999.
Rat infestation is a serious worry for health officials as rats carry as many as 35 diseases which threaten humans.
These include leptospyrosis and eosinophilic meningitis which was first discovered in Jamaica in 2000.