Sunday 31 May, 2020

Cayman: PPE litter a growing and dangerous problem

Thanks to Cayman-based photographer, Helen Jones for this image, taken in George Town

Thanks to Cayman-based photographer, Helen Jones for this image, taken in George Town

By Juliette Heath

"I am finding dirty used masks on the ground. This one was in George Town near the port were someone sat to have a smoke .....I got to thinking what's gonna happen when a lot of people start throwing them all over the place...To me this is scary, as with the spread of COVID-19, no one knows who was behind that mask."

These are the words of photographer, Helen Jones who shared this image with Loop Cayman.

While general littering is an ongoing issue in Cayman and across the world, with people carelessly discarding waste on beaches, on the roadside and in the sea, creating environmental issues that negatively impact tourism and the community as a whole, in the light of the recent necessity for personal protective equipment (“PPE”) on Island, we are starting to see the first signs of coronavirus PPE littering with people disposing of masks, wipes and gloves carelessly around the Island. 

This is not only an issue due to the obvious disregard for keeping Cayman clean; this new littering could potentially have a far more dangerous effect with a higher threat of spreading the COVID-19 virus that we are trying so hard to contain.

It's also putting at risk workers for the Department of Health who clean up the littering. While the virus is known not to live for long in the open air, there is still the potential threat of these items being contaminated and, in turn, the virus being passed on to anyone picking them up. 

With so many videos readily available on social media for the correct and safe disposal of PPE, it is extremely sad to see these items being discarded of so carelessly. 

People who wear PPE when they go out for their essential trips should carry an extra bag with them for safe disposal of these items. Once they have finished using them, they can follow the guidelines for safe removal and drop them into the bag and seal for disposal. 

We all need to be extremely mindful to do our part to keep Cayman clean and safe, especially during these uncertain times. We also do not want to see these items ending up in our beautiful ocean, causing pollution and creating a potential hazard to our marine life.

Under the Cayman Islands Litter Law, offenders can be fined up to CI$500 for littering and up to six months in jail if convicted, as set out in the below page on the CI Government website.

http://www.gov.ky/portal/page/portal/cighome/pressroom/archive/200711/finesjailforlittering

If you see or are aware of anyone irresponsibly discarding of their PPE please contact the Department of Health on 949-6696.

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