As the authorities have been scrambling to educate and convince people to wear face masks and gloves to prevent the spread of COVID-19, a new problem is emerging – How to deal with the vast amounts of discarded medical waste the pandemic is creating?
The supreme Committee on Monday made it mandatory for people to wear masks while in public places. However, used face masks and gloves casually tossed around on the road by careless commuters is not only a major health risk for sanitation workers and rag pickers but also for people out in the streets.
Speaking to Muscat Daily, Janaab Sayyid Hudhaim Fuad al Said, Health, Safety and Environment Specialist at the Ministry of Health (MoH), said throwing gloves on the ground or streets can be a major risk especially to those cleaning the streets.
“Now is the need than ever before to revive the collective awareness of the masses on the dangers of throwing waste on the ground, including gloves and masks that may be contaminated by the virus. We are worried and frightened because of such behaviour,” said Sayyid Hudhaim.
He added that this irresponsible habit may lead to the increase in infections. “This is a terrible epidemic that spreads like wildfire, and the number of people affected by it has doubled with a scary escalation. This calls for us to be careful in many ways, including proper discarding of this type of waste. People who are cleaning the streets will be at risk of getting the disease because of the carelessness of a few who throw contaminated masks or gloves on the road,” he said.
“We have seen a few people throwing their gloves and mask on the ground before getting into their vehicle with extreme selfishness, as if they are throwing their illness without care and without the slightest responsibility. This has to stop,” Sayyid Hudhaim added.
Sayyid Hudhaim requested people to also stop throwing used gloves on the ground. “There is always a suitable place for such waste. Gloves and masks thrown on the ground are a health hazard and an ’emerging’ cause of COVID-19 transmission. My message to the people is to dispose the mask and gloves in the bin to avoid any health risk to others,” he added.
Despite being informed through the different means about the hazards of dumping waste in open, especially in the current COVID-19 scenario, discarded masks are seen dumped on on the ground in different locations in Muscat.
“Every now and then, I see several discarded masks and gloves. Even though there are bins everywhere, there are still many people who simply throw the discarded masks on the roads. They forget such items are a health risk to the community. People should be educated to stop this practice,” S Fasiuddin, a photographer by profession, said.
Another commuter, Mohsin Rashid, said, “I have seen people slowing down their vehicles near the garbage bins and throwing the masks thinking that it will fall in the bins. But they end up somewhere else because masks are lightweight and fly off instead of falling in the bins.”