ISLAMABAD - Pakistan is producing mountains of medical waste contaminated with COVID-19 infectious materi­als each day without making prop­er rules and regulations to dump the hazardous trashes.

If a prompt action is delayed, a crisis of spiral spread of COV­ID-19 may spell doom, says a re­port published by Gwadar Pro App.

Since the pandemic outbreak in the country, COVID-19 hospi­tal waste has been unregulated, posing a serious threat to the dai­ly-surged coronavirus cases.

As government has yet to come up with special Standard Opera­tive Procedures (SOPs) and guide­lines to collect, pack, store and dispose of highly dangerous COV­ID-19 infectious medical garbage and sharps, hospital staff as well as waste collectors is susceptible to contract the disease.

Meanwhile, in the absence of public guideline, people have no idea how to trash their used COV­ID-19 trash.

Senior Vice President of Young Doctor Association (YDA), Dr Shoaib Niazi, who once acted as focal person for COVID-19 pa­tients at Lahore’s famous Mayo Hospital, recommended for put­ting in place special “set of regula­tions” to deal with infected medi­cal items including boots, aprons, long-sleeved gowns, thick gloves, masks, and goggles or face shields.

“Medical practitioners are not versed with special criteria to han­dle used COVID-19 stuff,” he cate­gorically said and added, “We have been disposing of COVID-19 used material in Red containers sup­posed to be used for trash sub­stance of dangerous diseases linked to blood and human fluid.

As unseen situation tends to evolve, we expect that our health system will be more prepared to reckon with virus-laden waste be­ing generated by public hospital and field hospital on daily basis,” he added.

Pakistan Medical Association (PMA) executive member Dr Izhar Ahmed Ch lashed out at govern­ment for staying idle on man­agement of Coronavirus hospi­tal waste. It seems to be criminal oblivion that government has no plan on COVID-19 medical waste, he alleged. It is worth to mention here that the Hospital Waste Man­agement System is already un­derperforming. With fresh load of COVID-19 medical rubbishes, the current system has gone exposed in totality.

Usually medical waste is disposed of by burning into incinerators in­stalled at public hospitals. Howev­er, entire mechanism from hospi­tal waste centers to incinerators is brimming with multiple irregulari­ties, giving rise to hazardous risks. After COVID-19 ordeal, bleak situa­tion appears to be compounded.

Punjab is the worst hit area by witnessing more than 2000 pan­demic cases till the filing of the story. Its capital, Lahore houses in­cinerators at four public hospitals including Lady Aitchison Hospital, Jinnah Hospital, Children Hospital and Ganga Ram Hospital.

Lahore used to produce 17,400 kg hospital waste every day before the COVID-19 crisis. Merely 3,000 kg would make their entry into the Children’s Hospital for incinera­tion through Lahore Waste Man­agement Company (LWMC).

The rest is tackled by private en­terprises that remain prone to mis­handled largely. In the current sce­nario when public hospitals and field hospitals have been generat­ing many times higher than previ­ous waste, COVID-19 garbage may be a lurking threat.

Dr Shahid Iqbal, an environmen­talist, said that there were reports that unscrupulous companies re­cycled hospital waste to make kids items such children feeders, disposable plastic spoons, plates, glasses, pots, utensils and so on. “We do not know exactly what will happen with COVID-19 hospi­tal waste, if recycled,” he added.

There’s more to worry about than waste from medical centers. The disease is spread out beyond hospitals. Some people who have minor symptoms are recovering at home. Others who are asymp­tomatic might not know that the trash they’re throwing out could be contaminated.

That means people may be gen­erating plenty of virus-laden trash. That is worrying for sanitation workers, as the virus can persist for up to a day on cardboard and for longer on metal and plastic, accord­ing to one study of the virus in lab conditions.

In Wuhan, where the coronavi­rus first emerged, officials didn’t just need to build new hospitals for the influx of patients; they had to construct a new medical waste plant and deploy 46 mobile waste treatment facilities, too.

Hospitals there generated six times as much medical waste at the peak of the outbreak as they did before the crisis. The daily out­put of medical waste reached 240 metric tons, about the weight of an adult blue whale.

The safe management of house­hold waste is also likely to be crit­ical during the COVID-19 emer­gency. Medical waste such as contaminated masks, gloves, used or expired medicines, and oth­er items can easily become mixed with domestic garbage, but they should be treated as hazardous waste and disposed of separately.