Khairul Alam, a businessman from Mymensingh city, has to leave his house, during the coronavirus outbreak, for different purposes.
He wears a raincoat as personal protective equipment (PPE), as well as a mask and hand gloves to protect himself from the virus. He seems to be very cautious about the safety measures against possible infection. But, what does he do with his gloves after he uses them?
"I put them in the dustbin before I enter my home," said Khairul.
He said he did not know that used gloves qualify as medical waste and there are certain rules about how to manage it.
Khairul Alam is not alone in this; most people – except those who are directly involved in health-related services – do not know anything about medical waste. Even many people who are involved in these sectors do not follow the rules accordingly.
The use of gloves has increased in the country – including in Mymensingh – amid the Covid-19 outbreak. People are using gloves to protect themselves from the virus. However, after using the gloves they generally throw them out in the dustbins or anywhere they want.
Experts say if these gloves have come into contact with the virus and are not incinerated, they can be possible sources of Covid-19 infection. Cleaners, especially, are in great danger of becoming infected by these used gloves.
The people concerned said there are not enough awareness programmes regarding this.
According to the Bangladesh Medical Waste Management and Processing Rules-2008, anything that carries germs must be incinerated. However, most of the people do not follow the rules. Even many private hospitals in Mymensingh dispose of medical waste, including gloves, in dustbins.
Ekramul Hoque Titu, mayor of Mymensingh, said in recent days the number of abandoned gloves that can be found in the dustbins, or in the environment, has increased significantly. He said the sanitation workers have been ordered to properly dispose of the gloves.
"However, it has become a risky job. Citizens are not following the rules," he added. He said he will distribute leaflets to make the public aware of the proper procedure of disposing medical waste.
Experts say it is high time awareness be raised about using gloves – amid the coronavirus outbreak.
"The general public does not need to use gloves. Only those who work at hospitals or those who work on coronavirus need gloves," said Dr Mohammad Alimul Islam, professor, Department of Microbiology and Hygiene, Bangladesh Agricultural University.
He said, "There is a law concerning medical waste management. Everybody is violating this law. Those who need to use gloves must know how to dispose of them properly."
"After using a glove, it must be soaked in water mixed with bleaching powder for an hour. Then it must be incinerated," he added.
ABM Moshiul Alam, civil surgeon of Mymensingh, said, "It is a new problem. People are creating new problems while trying to be conscious. They are using gloves and also touching their bodies with those gloves. Later they dump the gloves anywhere they like. This is creating the possibilities for coronavirus infection."
He requested that members of law enforcement agencies working to prevent coronavirus lead awareness campaigns in this regard.
Nobo Waste Management Limited, a private firm, has been working with the Mymensingh City Corporation to manage medical waste.
Abul Hasnat Epu, managing director of Nobo Waste Management, said, "The health service institutions of Mymensingh are not interested in handling medical waste properly. It is a great danger for the environment."
Farid Ahmad, director of the Department of Environment, said, "There are only seven private hospitals, clinics and diagnostic centres in Mymensingh that have certificates according to the Bangladesh Medical Waste Management and Processing Rules-2008. No other institution has a waste management system. They dump their waste in dustbins. We will start to take action against them soon."