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A sea of ​​hazardous waste: Mass coronavirus testing in China is becoming a huge problem

Last week, Beijing was apparently in a “race against time” to contain a new coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak after authorities in the Chinese capital warned that a rise in cases linked to a 24-hour bar/ 24 was critical.

China, where the coronavirus was first reported in 2019, has seen an increase in Covid cases in parts of the country over the past two or three months. The rise in cases has led authorities to impose strict social distancing rules, a rigorous quarantine regime and endless mass testing.

Now it looks like mass testing is becoming a huge problem. An AFP report noted that health workers use plastic swabs every day to test millions of throats in China. They cause medical waste which has become an environmental problem. Also an economic levy of a zero-Covid strategy.

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China is counting on mass testing as part of its zero Covid policy to avert a public health catastrophe. But experts say this approach creates a sea of ​​hazardous waste and a growing economic burden on local governments that must invest tens of billions of dollars in funding the system.

“The amount of routinely generated medical waste (is) on a scale virtually unheard of in human history,” said Yifei Li, an environmental studies expert at New York University in Shanghai.

“The problems are already getting astronomical, and they will continue to get worse,” he told AFP.

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Beijing has positioned itself as an environmental leader, tackling air and water pollution while setting a goal to make its economy carbon neutral by 2060.

As mass testing for the coronavirus now poses a new challenge to waste. Each positive case led to a trail of test kits, face masks and used personal protective equipment.

If not disposed of properly, biomedical waste can contaminate soil and waterways, threatening the environment and human health.

(with agency contributions)

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