As Bengaluru recorded nearly 1,000 cases of Covid-19 on Friday, civic workers at the forefront of keeping the city clean expressed concern that they have not been provided with proper protective gear, making them vulnerable to the deadly disease.
As many as 23 civic workers have tested positive for Covid-19 in the past few days. In the name of protective gear, the BBMP provides them with only gloves and masks that are reused for days.
The potential exposure to the virus, coupled with the neglect by the authorities and the citizens, has panicked the workers.
N S Ramakanth, the co-founder of the Solid Waste Management Round Table, warned that the entire city would be in a mess if pourakamikas were affected. “The primary worry is about people using disposable masks that are discarded irresponsibly, instead of using reusable cloth masks,” he said.
Although BBMP Special Commissioner (Health and Solid Waste Management), Randeep D, stated in the media not to treat masks and gloves as dry waste and to dispose of them separately as medical waste, the instructions do not seem to have reached the supervisors and the pourakamikas, Ramakanth said. “The lack of communication is extremely dangerous for the health of civic workers,” he added.
Odette Katrak, the co-founder of Beautiful Bengaluru, an NGO working towards a clean, green and safe city for the last five years, concurred that contaminated masks and gloves were a source of infection. “If a person is carrying the virus, that should end up in a landfill, not in a dry waste segregation centre,” Katrak said.
According to her, awareness is needed among the masses on the proper disposal of masks. “Most citizens have knowledge of only two kinds of waste: dry and wet – but the disposable masks belong to the third category of reject waste which includes sanitary pads. It is advisable to wrap the disposable mask in a paper before handing it over to civic workers to maintain hygiene and to be considerate about the safety of their health,” she stressed.
NaliniShekar of HasiruDala noted that just distributing masks or gloves will not work. “A proactive initiative to educate pourakarmikas on how to wear, remove and store the mask and how to wash it before reuse is needed,” she said.