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Challenges remain in handling waste from home-based COVID-19 patients



Waste from COVID-19 patients is placed into yellow bags. — Photo

HÀ NỘI — Home quarantine and treatment for COVID-19 patients in Hà Nội with none or only mild symptoms is considered an effective measure to help relieve pressure for the medical sector but the treatment of waste generated by home-based F0 remains a huge challenge. 

In response to the complicated progression of the pandemic, the municipal Department of Natural Resources and Environment and local environmental companies prepared and guided the collection and treatment of waste generated.

The Ministry of Health provided guidelines for home-treatment COVID-19 patients to classify medical waste to prevent infection and environmental pollution.

The Hà Nội People’s Committee earlier this month issued a plan to classify, collect, transport and treat waste from home-based F0 patients in response to increasing number of infections.

The classification of waste is important because such waste could be potentially infected with the virus. If not managed and treated properly, the risk of secondary transmission increases. Normally, infectious waste will be incinerated.  

Under the plan, all waste generated by patients treated at home is classified as infectious waste and will be collected into a yellow bag which is tightly tied and then be placed in the second yellow bag, also tightly sealed. The yellow bags must be labelled “Waste potentially infected with SARS-CoV-2”.

After that, the waste will be disinfected and transported by local sanitation workers to points designated to store infectious waste at medical stations of communes, wards or towns or mobile medical stations or temporary storages assigned by local authorities.

However, as the number of F0 and F1 isolated and treated at home keeps increasing, the amount of waste also rises, leading to some problems.

The Environmental Equipment and Materials Joint Stock Company 13 under the Hà Nội Urban Environment Company alone collects around 2-3 tonnes of waste from quarantine areas.

Meanwhile, there are not enough human resources to collect waste from every house having F0 treated at home and waste classification has yet been completely done.

Additionally, many households with patients treated at home do not know about the regulations on waste treatment.

V.T.L, a resident in Hà Nội’s Đống Đa District who has made full recover from COVID-19 after being treated at home, told Pháp luật và Môi trường (Law and Environment) online newspaper that she was not guided how to dispose of waste properly as well as handle personal belongings of a F0 case.

“I was isolated at home alone but was not directed how to treat household waste,” she said.

“One of my friends told me to tie the waste collection bag tightly, disinfect the bag and then put in into dustbins.”

Another patient, N.T.T, from Thanh Xuân District, told the newspaper that his family was not guided how to treat daily waste so they still put trash into dust bins as normal.

The Ministry of Health recently asked the People’s Committees of localities to guide measures about medical waste management at COVID-19 treatment areas. Local medical establishments are requested to strictly abide by regulations on classifying, collecting, transporting and treating medical waste, particularly infectious waste.

Localities were also ordered to increase inspection and supervision over medical waste management at medical establishments, COVID-19 treatment facilities and quarantine areas and strictly punish violators.

However, according to many experts, the management, collection and treatment of household waste from COVID-19 patients face many difficulties. Patients treated at home are located at different areas, leading to longer time for sanitation workers to go to collect as well as higher transportation cost. Meanwhile, the number of sanitation workers is limited while they are not fully equipped with protective equipment and disinfecting materials.

Hà Nội continues to record the highest number of infections in the country, at an average of just under 3,000 cases per day.

The country’s current largest COVID-19 hotspot now has more than 62,000 active COVID-19 cases, of which over 80 per cent are being treated at home. — 



Plastic packaging a cause for concern in online shopping era in Vietnam



The trend of online food purchasing, which has prevailed since the COVID-19 outbreak, and the prevalent use of plastic packaging in retail are increasing plastic waste volume, potentially causing long-term health risks.

During the strict COVID-19 restrictions last year, 75 percent of people living in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City used online food delivery services, according to a survey of Q&Me, a market research firm.

Such food is usually packed in boxes made of plastic that accounted for 64 percent of the total volume of materials used for the food packaging industry.

Many vendors prefer using plastic bags to contain various items sold online and at bricks-and-mortar shops.

ProCi Food, a Ho Chi Minh City-based non-profit social project, and some other eco-friendly businesses, like Phu Yen Province-based Tuy An Farm, have called on their customers to send back packaging to them so that they can return it to manufacturers for processing and reuse.

Some online grocery stores, such as ‘Sap Chang Sen’ in Hanoi, have also applied the same practice to minimize plastic waste. 

Kafka Bookstores in Ho Chi Minh City and Stars Bookstore Company Limited in the capital have shared with their customers solutions for reducing waste from packaging and softening environmental impacts from their business operations.

Consumers can make online shopping ‘greener’ by including multiple items in one purchase order and by requesting sellers to use packing methods that help cut down on plastic packaging waste.

In developed countries, major e-commercial sites have made changes to packages to both facilitate buyers and lessen damage to the environment.

Amazon, for example, has turned to packets made from recyclable materials.

Manufacturers should work with retailers to have their goods shipped to online buyers in the original packaging, instead of using any additional one.

Suppliers and transporters should use linings made from eco-friendly materials instead of shock-absorbing films made of plastic.

Very little of the plastic people discard every day is recycled or incinerated in waste-to-energy facilities, but much of it ends up in landfills where it may take up to 1,000 years to decompose, leaking potentially toxic substances to soil and water, according to the United Nations Environment Program.

People eat, drink, and breathe micro-plastics every day, and these small plastic particles may be detrimental to human health once they have entered the body, according the Plastic Health Coalition (PHC), under the Netherlands-based Plastic Soup Foundation, a non-profit organization aiming to educate the public about plastic waste harm.

Plastic products contain chemical additives, some of which are associated with serious health problems such as hormone-related cancers, infertility, and neurodevelopment disorders like ADHD and autism, PHC said.

When plastics and micro-plastics end up in the environment, they attract micro-organisms, such as harmful bacteria, and if micro-plastics containing these pathogens penetrate the body, they may increase the risk of infection, the coalition warned.

Health experts emphasized that long-term usage and exposure of plastics and plastic products to high temperature can lead to leaking of toxic chemical constituents into food, drinks, and water.

Indiscriminate disposal of plastics on land and open-air burning can result in the release of harmful chemicals into the air, causing public health hazards, experts said.

Supermarkets and trade centers in Vietnam will be fined for distributing disposable plastic bags to customers from 2026, the Vietnam News Agency quoted an environment official as saying at a seminar held last month on reduction in the consumption of single-use plastic bags in Vietnam.

The official, Nguyen Trung Thang, deputy director of the Institute of Strategy and Policy on Natural Resources and Environment, under the Department of Industry and Trade of Hanoi, said that Vietnam had issued various legal documents to control serious risks of plastic waste to the environment.

The country also strives to use 100 percent of environmentally-friendly bags at shopping centers and supermarkets by 2025.

“From 2026, supermarkets and trade centers will be fined for providing disposable plastic bags for customers,” Thang said.

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Vietnamese ministries seek feedback on project linking Con Dao with national grid through submarine cables



Vietnam’s Ministry of Industry and Trade and Ministry of Planning and Investment are asking relevant agencies if they have any feedback on the Vietnam Electricity Corporation (EVN)’s plan to expand the national grid from the Mekong Delta province of Soc Trang to southern Ba Ria-Vung Tau Province’s Con Dao Island via submarine cables.

Electricity demand on Con Dao, which is an increasingly popular tourist destination around 180 kilometers off Ba Ria-Vung Tau, has been on the rise.

The load forecast for the southern island in 2025 is 28.7 MW, 87.6 MW in 2030, and 94 MW in 2035, according to EVN.

Meanwhile, the two diesel-fired power plants on the island have a combined capacity of just 12 MW, which is seven MW lower than existing demand. 

Therefore, EVN proposed a project bringing electricity from the national grid in Soc Trang to Con Dao through submarine cables, which the power corporation believes to be much more stable than other forms of power supply and also minimize the impact on the island’s environment and ecology.

The project is set to start at Soc Trang Province, with the construction of 102.5 kilometers of submarine 110kV lines, featuring 6.1 kilometers of underground 110kV cables. 

It is expected to cost VND4.9 trillion (US$211.2 million), including VND2.5 trillion ($107.7 million) from the state budget.

The electricity retail price on Con Dao upon the completion of the project is estimated at VND2,429.6 ($0.1) per kWh. 

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Vietnam’s child labor rate lower than Asia-Pacific average: official



Vietnam’s rate of child labor is 9.1 percent, around two percentage points lower than the average in the Asia-Pacific region, an official told a workshop held in observance of World Day Against Child Labor 2022 (June 12) on Friday.

The 9.1 percent equates to more than one million children in the 5-17 age group engaging in labor, Deputy Minister of Labor, War Invalids, and Social Affairs Nguyen Thi Ha cited results of a survey done in 2018 by her ministry, the General Statistics Office, and the International Labor Organization (ILO).

The country’s child labor rate has been on the decline since 2012, when it was 15.5 percent, according to Ha.

However, the issue has lingered and tends to take place in informal fields, such as household enterprises and manufacturing and production supply chains, which makes it difficult to detect.

Therefore, the Vietnamese government has sped up multiple efforts to end child labor in all its forms, Ha emphasized.

In contrast with the Vietnamese trend, the global child labor rate has been on the rise due to the adverse impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to Ingrid Christensen, director of ILO Vietnam.

About 160 million children, nearly ten percent of the earth’s total number of kids, are currently victims of child labor, Christensen said.

The director advised that Vietnam should step up poverty reduction programs and policies, increase vocational training opportunities for children, especially in rural areas, invest in a child protection system, and improve household livelihoods as a way to prevent child labor, contributing to lowering the global child labor rate.

Meanwhile, many enterprise representatives, who attended Friday’s workshop, suggested imposing heavy sanctions and even criminal punishments on child labor violators.

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