For Apartment Communities In The Age Of COVID : Health & Waste Management – Interactive Webinar

ADDA launched the Neighborhoods Of Tomorrow – Interactive Webinar Series on May 1, 2020 with the first Interactive Webinar in the Series. Titled “For Apartment Communities in the Age of COVID : Health & Waste Management”, the webinar was co-hosted by Daily Dump. Expert speakers, Dr. Arvind Kasthuri, Professor, Department of Community Health, St. John’s Medical College and Dr. Ramakrishna Goud, Professor & Head, Department of Community Health, St. John’s Medical College enlightened Community Leaders with their expertise to manage community health and solid waste in the wake of the global pandemic.

Health & Waste Management
Webinar on Health & Waste Management

What Were The Major Takeaways?

Takeaway 1 :

The strict Lockdown is slowly starting to see relaxation. Inter city/inter town travel is now permitted in private vehicles within a certain time limit. More stores are opening up. Helpers, cooks, housekeeping staff are now allowed in communities. As the lockdown is lifted in phases, it is time to enforce strict precaution for the benefit of all individuals present in certain communities. To this effect, it is imperative to have a proper set up to wear masks, routined hand sanitisation by the staff and following proper norms of physical distancing even when accomplishing their duties. A three layered reusable cotton mask is the way to go to generate less biomedical waste. 

Health & Waste Management

Takeaway 2 :

Residential communities are generating more waste than before. With remote working as the norm, and the general advise to not go out means more and more people are staying home. Now more than ever, waste segregation and proper waste disposal is important to not contribute to the problem of pollution. Apart from the usual solid recyclable waste, wet waste, e-waste, we now have to consider segregating bio-medical waste as well. 

The Q&A Session 

We are reproducing the Q&A session here for the benefit of the readers. You can watch the Health & Waste Management Webinar video embedded at the end of this article to get more details about the entire session.

Q1. Why are the Coronavirus symptoms changing profile?
A: It is a viral illness with a wide spectrum. Many people are asymptomatic, meaning they do not manifest at all, while some have mild symptoms. As we go on, we are learning more and more about the spectrum of the virus. Recently, the CDC in US has released a series of additional symptoms which people have encountered all over the world, which include shivering, shaking or chills, headache, intense fatigue and a loss of smell, which of course, we knew about already. But yes, of course, we cannot call it changing profile, rather additional symptoms are being noticed as we move on.

Q2. What to do with the presence of virus on surfaces – newspaper, packages, clothing?
A: The virus is carried in small droplets. Those droplets have the predilection to land on surfaces and now when that surface is clean, polished, smooth like a plastic surface or a metal surface, the virus lasts longer. It is said the virus lasts for upto 3-4 days. For such surfaces, please ensure you clean them as often as possible with simple soap and water or with an alcohol based household cleaning solution.Life of virus on paper, packaging and cardboard is much less; believed to last for four hours to a few hours on such surfaces. Just because a virus particle has been on a surface, that doesn’t mean transmission of illness will result. Risk of transmission from newspaper, packaging and clothing is very low. Changing clothes everytime one goes out is overkill. Maintaining hand hygiene is enough to be safe.

Q3. What are the do’s and don’ts of hygiene, fumigation and sanitisation?
A: The fumigation process being followed by municipal corporations consists of spreading a solution called sodium hypochlorite at a 1% concentration. There is no doubt it neutralises the virus completely. Also if you want to make a fumigant solution at home, a common item to use is bleaching powder. 1 teaspoon of bleaching powder in 1 litre of water is a good homemade fumigant solution to neutralise the virus.

Q4. What happens when there’s an outbreak in the apartment community?
A: Immediately consult the local authority and follow their response guidelines to the situation. 

Q5. What about the presence of virus on surfaces of vegetables and fruits and how to deal with it?
A: Washing them in a soap-water solution or a soapnut (reetha) solution removes the virus particles off the surfaces of edibles. One can also blanch to remove virus particles – blanching is done by soaking the edibles in hot water laced with salt. Vinegar can also be used.

Q6. How should the wastes from quarantined homes be treated?
A: The rules of waste segregation do not change. Waste must be segregated into three categories – biodegradable, non-biodegradable and medical wastes. In quarantine situations there are government mandates where waste collectors have to take a little responsibility about the picking up of waste. In context of Bangalore, the local government has a tie up with Common Treatment Facilities where medical wastes from quarantine zones are treated by them. The rest of the waste will be treated the usual way. One should remember, a COVID-19 diagnosed patient will not be at home, they will be in the hospital. Masks can be fumigated in bleach solution and disposed with sanitary wastes like diapers and sanitary napkins.

Q7. What is the effect of sunlight on the virus? Can masks be replaced with double layered handkerchiefs that can be reused?
A: There is no doubt that virus particles on cloth exposed to direct sunlight die in an hour or two. Exposing to sunlight is fine, but the gold standard is to wash articles in soap solution. 

N95 masks are for the healthcare community. There are three types of masks available – N95 masks for the use of healthcare workers since their likelihood of contracting the virus is high; surgical masks again for the use of healthcare workers; the most recommended for general use is the triple layered cloth mask – in other words, simple cloth but three layers of it. Such masks drop risk of transmission from 70% to 15%. These triple layered cloth masks can be washed, cleaned and reused. If it has become damp within the day, it’s time to wash it. 

Q8. Do we have the infrastructure to handle the increasing amount of biomedical waste being generated in the form of disposable masks?
A: We have to keep in mind that for widespread use, disposable masks are not necessary. It is always better to shift to a three layered reusable cloth mask. And masks must be disposed of following the correct methods of segregating medical wastes. 

Q9. What are the best practices to follow to manage the health of housekeeping staff coming to apartment communities?
A: Staff showing flu-like symptoms (fever, cough, cold, sore throat) should be discouraged from coming to work. They need to be provided with masks, gloves, soaps and sanitisers for proper hand hygiene. There is no cause for panic. Also remember to be human towards any staff coming into the community. Alertness helps, not shunning away. 

Q10. Can bio enzyme cleaners be used in place of alcohol based sanitisers?
A: At this point, it is difficult to answer if bio enzymes can be used as replacements. Simple soap and water are the way to go. 

Q11. Does tunnel sanitisation help?
A: That kind of treatment is not necessary for every entrant in an apartment community. They are not an option anymore. 

Q12. What should be the correct sources of information about the ongoing pandemic?
A: Bank upon information from government websites. Government of India official website, National Centre for Disease Control website, community guidelines, state level official website are few sources of information. For Karnataka, the website to follow is karunadu.karnataka. gov.in.

The Full Webinar on Health & Waste Management

The next part of this Webinar shall be hosted on May 9, 2020 at 11:00 a.m. To register, click here. Limited slots available.

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About the Author: Karnika Roy