By Sampada A. Khatiwada
Kathmandu, Sept. 27: Along with the increasing cases of COVID-19, a large number of infected people across the nation are staying in home isolation. Of the 18,299 active patients confirmed by the Ministry of Health and Population (MoHP) on Friday, over 10,000 are placed in home isolation.
Although the health ministry has issued a specific guideline that are to be followed in isolation and the local levels are given with the responsibility to check on those staying in home isolation, the government has not addressed the issue of safe disposal of COVID-19 waste from the household of infected patients yet.
Due to the absence of a specific rule, the COVID-19 patients are unaware of the need of safe disposal of the hazardous COVID-19 waste from their homes.
“It has been 11 days that I am staying in home isolation after testing positive for COVID-19. The home isolation guidelines issued by the government are being followed thoroughly at my home but the disposal of COVID-19 waste has become an issue for me and my family,” said Pushkar Chhetri, a resident of Balaju.
“As no specific rule has been prescribed for waste disposal while in home isolation, we are in a dilemma whether to give the garbage to waste collectors or to bury it,” said Chhetri. “Currently, we have let the garbage soak up the sun at our terrace.” He added that the lack of COVID-19 waste management rules for those staying in home isolation had increased the possibility of contamination in his community.
Dr. Jageshwor Gautam, spokesperson of the MoHP, said, “To make sure that the virus doesn’t spread and contaminate the society, those staying in home isolation should clean their belongings and surroundings frequently by themselves. The utensils used to eat should be washed by the COVID-19 patients.”
“All the guidelines issued by the MoHP must be followed while staying in home isolation. Waste of the COVID-19 patients could also be a possible medium for the spread of novel coronavirus. Thus, all the biodegradable wastes of the patients in home isolation must be composted while the non-biodegradable wastes should be burnt to ensure that the contamination is limited to the patients’ home alone,” said Dr. Gautam.
Meanwhile, the public health experts say that to contain the spread of COVID-19, the government must issue specific waste segregation and management guidelines for those staying in home isolation.
“As the number of COVID-19 patients staying in home isolation is increasing day by day, it is high time the government issued guidelines for safe and effective
management of waste at homes,” said Dr. Rabindra Pandey, a public health specialist.
Dr. Pandey said that the risk of spread of SARS-CoV-2 would intensify if the waste is disposed haphazardly by COVID-19 patients. The virus spreads faster from fluid waste. The waste collectors and people in neighbourhood could also be at high risk of contracting the virus, he added.
“Until now, enough attention has not been paid to management of COVID-19 waste products. The government, in coordination with local levels, could supply air-tight bags for disposal of waste to the infected patients,” said Dr. Pandey.
He also stressed on conducting awareness programme about the importance of waste management for the infected people. “The COVID-19 patients in home isolation should be encouraged to practice safe disposal of wastes,” he said.
Moreover, Dr. Pandey said, “Unless the government issues guidelines for safe disposal of COVID-19 wastes at home, the infected patients could collect the wastes in air-tight plastic bags and give away the bags to waste collectors only after 72 hours.”
– The Rising Nepal