Discarded masks biggest potential carriers of coronavirus, say experts

Medical experts advocate scientific disposal of used masks and gloves, say imposition of fine helps check dumping of waste in open  

Published: 18th April 2020 08:20 AM  |   Last Updated: 18th April 2020 08:27 AM   |  A+A-

Mask lying on road

For representational purposes

Express News Service

VIJAYAWADA: The habit of dumping trash on roads will definitely land us in trouble, experts have stated. Despite being informed through the media about the hazards of dumping waste in open, especially in the current scenario of rapid spread of coronavirus, discarded masks were seen dumped on streets in Vijayawada.

“Everyday, I collect several discarded masks. They are found in garbage bins. However, there are still many people who simply throw the discarded masks on the roads,” said Lakshmi, a VMC sanitation worker. 

Another worker Bhargaviamma said, “People moving on bikes and travelling in cars or trucks slow down their vehicles near the garbage bins and throw the masks thinking that they will fall in the bins. But, they don’t understand that the lightweight masks fly off instead of falling in the bins." 

“The medical experts have stated that the discarded masks lying on the roads are one of the biggest potential sources of virus transmission. One used mask lying in open can directly affect more than 10 people. Studies have revealed that each positive person can affect nearly 416 others. Just imagine how many will be affected by those 10 directly affected because of throwing of just one mask in open,” said Dr Gopichand, Head of Department of TB & Chest and Nodal Officer for Coronavirus at Government General Hospital (GGH). 

He further said that coronavirus is primarily transmitted through droplets of mucus and saliva when a person sneezes or coughs. 

“The mask stop these droplets from reaching other persons body parts. But if an infected person throws away the mask in open, it will definitely affect all who come in contact. The problem now is that several people, who are not showing symptoms, are also testing corona positive. So we don’t know if a person is affected or not till he or she is tested,” he explained.

Further explaining as to how the virus can spread, another GGH pulmonologist Shweta said, “There are several risks. To begin with, the thrown masks pose the biggest threat to sanitation workers, police and other personnel deployed on duty. Though there is no proof that the virus can spread through, we cannot take the risk as it is very new and several studies are still going on. Stray dogs will also come in contact with the discarded masks. These dogs are fed by several animal lovers and NGOs. The volunteers touch and get touched by these dogs while feeding them, which again may spread the virus."

“Experts have also raised concerns that the discarded masks may be collected by unscrupulous traders, washed and resold claiming them to be new ones, especially during the time when there is a huge gap between demand and supply. 

“Unscrupulous people can go to any extent in their greed for money. Doctors have been specifically told that each surgical mask should not be used for more than six hours. Anyone can collect the masks which do not look used, clean and sell them again. Generally, gullible people who do not check products very minutely, may fall prey to the greed of unscrupulous traders,” said a policeman deployed on Mahatma Gandhi Road in the city. 

Meanwhile, the experts have suggested that the municipal authorities should impose heavy penalties on all those who are found throwing the masks or any bio-waste (gloves, PPEs) in open. 

“Recently it was announced that fine will be imposed on those found spitting on roads. Similar steps should be taken and effectively implemented with respect to the dumping of bio-waste in open as well,” said Dr Gopichand.

Durga temple to make masks

VIJAYAWADA: Sri Durga Malleswara Swamy Varla Devasthanam has decided to stitch face masks with the cloth pieces offered by devotees to Goddess Kanaka Durga and distribute them to people.

According to temple officials, there are around 1.5 lakh cloth pieces in the storeroom and more than 3 lakh face masks can be produced with the material.

The demand for face masks, gloves and hand sanitisers increased manifold after a Covid-19 death was reported in Vidyadharapuram.

“We came up with the idea of stitching face masks with the cloth pieces with us to serve the society,” said Durga temple Executive Officer MV Suresh Babu.

The masks are reusable and washable as they are made with quality cloth. The masks will be distributed free of cost to poor people. We will entrust the task of stitching face masks to tailors soon, the EO  added.

Disposal of used masks and gloves 

  • VMC instructions: Avoid throwing used masks and gloves on roads. 

  • Do not mix discarded masks and gloves with dry and wet waste.

  • Put discarded masks separately. 

  • Used masks and gloves should be cut into pieces before disposal.

  • Hand over discarded masks and gloves to garbage collector.

  • Masks and gloves should be disposed of in a scientific manner.


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