The deadly coronavirus pandemic, which originated in China, has so far killed more than 1.35 lakh of people across the world. The COVID-19 pandemic will leave serious scars on economies around the world, with life at a standstill after the lockdown announced by most countries. According to UN estimates, the pandemic wiped $ 50 billion from global exports in February alone.
In India, the first case of the coronavirus was reported on January 30, 2020, originating in China. As of April 16, 2020, the Ministry of Health and Family has confirmed a total of 12,380 cases and 414 deaths in the country.
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As cases of COVID-19 positive patients increase in India, the demand for personal protective equipment (PPE), made from single-use plastic (SUP), used to prevent COVID-19 is increasing rapidly. Given the importance of preparing for the COVID-19 pandemic, the government should provide incentives to industry so that adequate supplies are manufactured on time.
Many countries around the world and India have made the use of masks, usually made from SUP, mandatory to curb the spread of the deadly virus among people. SUP equipment – such as mask, gown, coat, goggles, gloves – used by doctors, nurses and other medical personnel to prevent the spread and infection with deadly bacteria and viruses. In a few European countries and the United States, many doctors and medical personnel fall prey to COVID-19 in the course of their duties.
Government, regulators, environmentalists and citizens should recognize the immense usefulness of plastic gears, also in SUP and should get rid of ideas of blanket bans and instead the industry should be encouraged and empowered. adequate support to deal with an unprecedented situation. increased demand.
The use of disposable masks, gloves, gowns, glasses, etc. proves to be the great saver of human life by preventing the transmission of diseases from one person to another.
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According to WHO modeling, around 89 million medical masks, 76 million gloves and 1.6 million glasses will be needed each month. WHO has provided around half a million sets of protective equipment to 47 affected countries, but stocks are quickly running out. Even the United States and European countries are facing a severe shortage of PPE and are looking outward to secure supplies.
Even China, one of the biggest producers of PPE, has witnessed a shortage of adequate personal protective equipment. To save lives, the Chinese have created makeshift alternative safety equipment which includes: plastic water bottle jars, plastic sheets, plastic laundry bags, etc. to protect himself.
SUP protective gear should be systemically disposed of and incinerated at high temperature, to prevent further spread of the virus and this will help redeem the bad reputation that is usually attributed to SUP.
For several decades, plastic has been the only practical and viable material in the medical field and has again come to the forefront of mankind in this pandemic to contain the virus and save so many human lives.
Plastic plays a central role in the healthcare industry
Protective clothing used by health workers such as masks, caps, glasses and gowns are usually made from plastic and are used by health workers during such outbreaks to reduce the risk of infection. because they act as a barrier against bacteria and viruses.
Additionally, IV bags and tubing, IV cannula, and disposable syringes used for IV fluid infusion are all made from medical grade plastics to prevent contamination from entering the bloodstream. Disposable plastic syringes have completely replaced alternative options.
So far, no alternative material has proven itself with the ease of utility and economy of all these varieties of medical grade plastics.
With the increasing use of plastics in the healthcare industry, government and regulators should apply good disposal and recycling practices to prevent contamination and the spread of COVID-19 infection.
Since plastics are very useful materials with immense utility, the future SUP course should be left to technical experts.
(DD Kale is a former professor of Polymer technology and Head of Polymer Engineering Department, UDCT, Mumbai. The opinions expressed here are personal)