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Budapest residents have reported fewer “rat sightings” in the city since last August but “their number is still higher than acceptable”, Budapest Mayor István Tarlós told commercial television channel ATV. Tarlós said that the municipal pest control company is “working continuously” and added that it is a “silly notion” that Budapest should have ever been completely rat-free. “There have been no large cities without rats, nor will there ever be” due to tunnels, sewers, railway stations and illegal waste dumps, he said.

Quoting a recent statement by the public health authority, Tarlós said that, despite the presence of rats, the city is not at risk of an epidemic. Concerning the pest control company, Tarlós said that the firm had won a public bid last year and was doing the job at a 23 percentage point lower price than its predecessor.

In the municipal assembly on Wednesday, Gergely Karácsony of the opposition Párbeszéd party said Budapest’s “most crucial issue is if the city can stay a rat-free city or it has to get accustomed to rats running about in the street”. He said the city’s management was unable to handle the problem and voiced incomprehension at the city’s dismissing the company which had “provided faultless pest control for 47 years”.