‘Treat used masks and self-test kits with extra care’

Proper disposal: A pharmacist showing the correct way to dispose of self-test kits.

GEORGE TOWN: With the country moving towards living with Covid-19, the public must embody new norms such as being mindful of how they throw away things, especially used face masks and self-test kits.

Virologist Dr Kumitaa Theva Das said adhering to the SOP alone is not enough in this climate.

“We also have to be mindful about how we dispose of masks and self-test kits.

“Occasionally, used masks can be spotted on the road, in the drain or open bins in public places. This can be hazardous.

“There may be viral particles on the outer surface of the mask. We must ensure the mask is not thrown in a location where someone may accidentally touch it,” said the Universiti Sains Malaysia senior lecturer, who added that self-test kits contain nasal or saliva samples.

“The public should ensure the kits are properly disposed of, even if their test comes out negative.

“This will not only keep households safe but at the same time prevent environmental contamination and transmission as well,” she said.

On the correct way to dispose of the two items, Dr Kumitaa said face masks should be disposed in lined bins with lids.

“This is to ensure no traces of the virus may get onto the inside of the bins and contaminate the surface.

“Bins with lids will also ensure no one touches or picks up the used masks. They would not be blown out or fall to the ground if the bin is covered,” she said, adding that masks should not be recycled.

As for self-test kits, it is important to place the used swabs, test strip and extraction tube into the small plastic bag that comes with the kit.

This can then be placed back into the box before being disposed of.

“If you are under quarantine, self-isolation or test positive, the masks and self-test kits can be double-bagged before they are disposed of,” she added.

Malaysian Community Pharmacy Guild (MCPG) northern branch chairman Foon Hwei Foong said more vigilance should be exercised with Covid-19-related disposables.

“Used face masks should be put in plastic bags and separated from domestic waste before they are disposed of.

“As for self-test kits, they should be treated as clinical waste.

“A self-test kit containing saliva and other fluids can be considered a biohazard. It would not be appropriate to treat used self-test kits as normal waste as it is dangerous.

“The best practice now is to separate the two items from normal waste and use the biohazard bag that is provided in the self-test kits,” she said.

Seberang Prai City Council mayor Datuk Rozali Mohamud said used face masks should not be mixed together with domestic waste as they could pose a danger to council workers.

“As for self-test kits, they must be put into the provided plastic bag. The plastic bag should be tied properly and thrown into the dustbin.

“The public must also ensure the place where they conducted self-testing is disinfected,” he said.

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