Garbage collectors steer clear of many COVID-affected homes

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Garbage disposal is proving to be a rankling issue for COVID-19 patients and their family members spending mandatory amount of time in home isolation.

The Swachh Auto Tipper (SAT) drivers mandated by GHMC for door-to-door garbage collection are terrified to lift trash from the households with COVID-19 patients. Majority of them are refusing to collect waste from such homes, while some others are insisting that the family members empty trash into the vehicle by themselves.

“Six members of our family have tested positive and have fever and body ache, and there was only one person looking after all of us. The garbage collector had stopped visiting our home, after learning about it from neighbours. Upon repeated complaints, he did visit, but insisted that we ourselves empty the barrel into his truck, whereas none of us was in a condition to do that,” related Radhakrishna (name changed), a patient from L.B. Nagar zone.

One more patient staying alone in Musheerabad too had a similar experience, and he says he chose to venture out in the middle of the night to dispose of the garbage in the nearest dump. Some others, it is learnt, are recklessly throwing the garbage out on the street when it is not collected.

In apartment complexes, where the SAT drivers would earlier visit each flat, they are now asking for the garbage to be pooled and kept outside the complex from where they can collect it. “We had to oblige for the fear that he would otherwise choose not to visit the complex at all. He is coming only after assurances that garbage from our flat is not being included,” informed Saravanan (name changed), a patient from Habsiguda.

Chinna Ranga Swamy, a SAT driver from Kharkhana area of Secunderabad, confirms this and says they have stopped collecting garbage from COVID-19 affected households. “We get to know about such homes from neighbours in the same locality, and refrain from visiting them. After all, we too are human beings and cannot risk our lives,” he says.

Zonal and circle level officials from GHMC, however, say that they are working with SAT drivers to ensure proper disposal of garbage. Colour-coded covers are being distributed for garbage collection from all the COVID-19 affected households, which may be shifted as they are into the trucks. “When there was a complaint, we ensured that the driver visited the home by supplying him with gloves, masks and other safety gear,” a deputy commissioner said, while admitting that the safety gear is not supplied to all SAT drivers.

Officials from GHMC headquarters have informed that kits including masks, safety jackets, rain coat, gloves, safety shoes, soaps, towel, cap, sanitiser and coconut oil were distributed to Sanitation and Entomology workers, while six reusable masks have already been distributed to each of the SAT drivers and workers, and four more will be distributed this month.

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