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Face mask rules in shops means Covid-19 biohazard bins should be installed in town centres, claims Gravesend campaigner

Town centres and shopping malls should be equipped with biohazard bins for the public to dispose of their face masks, says a campaigner.

Dawn Johnson, from Gravesend, has accused the government of failing to think through its Covid-19 policy for making face coverings mandatory in shops across England.

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Government advice is currently saying face masks are safe to dispose of in normal black sack bins. Picture: Dominic Lipinski/PA
Government advice is currently saying face masks are safe to dispose of in normal black sack bins. Picture: Dominic Lipinski/PA

The new rules, which came into effect last Friday, mean it is compulsory for every shopper to wear a mask when they enter shops.

She is now launching a campaign to see biohazard bins installed by the government and local councils - such as her local Gravesham Borough Council - throughout shopping centres and outside all stores so that potentially contaminated masks are disposed of safely.

"If the government is telling us to wear face masks then it will be the responsibility of the shops or the government because they are treating us all as being infected," the 62-year-old said.

"Any mask that's dropped on the floor becomes a risk. I saw people walking over them.

"It will be spread by shoes in the cars and across all of the car parks. If people just throw them on the floor it could spread.

The government made it compulsory for shoppers to wear a face mask while visiting shops from last Friday. Stock picture
The government made it compulsory for shoppers to wear a face mask while visiting shops from last Friday. Stock picture

"If this is as deadly as what they say then it will be a risk to anyone.

"But they are not offering us a safe place to put these masks. I don't think the government has thought through the legislation.

"Now they are saying just put it in a bin but it could spread very quickly if people don't think it will be spread."

She says while the bins "won't cost the earth" she believes they "could save a lot of lives" and should be in place ahead of a feared second wave.

Dawn has now launched a Facebook page urging people to report where facemasks have been dropped so that councils can be told where to collect them.

But she says she is concerned for council street cleaners not having the appropriate equipment or training to adequately take away potentially contaminated material.

"The government and councils just say throw it in the bin. People who may get it are bin cleaners and street cleaners," Dawn added.

Face masks being worn in the Forum shopping centre in Sittingbourne which Dawn says should be equipped with biohazard waste bins
Face masks being worn in the Forum shopping centre in Sittingbourne which Dawn says should be equipped with biohazard waste bins

"You wouldn't want to pick up a mask or glove on the floor so why would you want a sweeper to do it. I pity the poor people that are picking it up, I'm really concerned.

"It's like Keep Britain Tidy but trying to keep it Covid free.

"If we're going to take this seriously then we need those bins.

"I don't know about the actual design of the bins - there are some up to £500. But even if it's just an ordinary bag and as long as you put the biohazard sign on it, it's better than nothing.

"A pedal bin would work and you don't have to do any touching.

"If that could be done then it can be taken away by the council but you have to treat them in a special way.

"Why should the ordinary public have to put their potentially dangerous face covering and gloves while shopping in an ordinary bin.

"I think it should be for the government to be responsible for the removal of it. They put the law in they should pay for it."

A Gravesham council spokesman said: "Government advice is that used face coverings and other PPE including gloves can be safely disposed of in your black general waste bin at home or a litter bin if you are outside, without the need to place them in an extra bag.

“Given that clear guidance, the introduction of biohazard waste bins is not something we are considering.”

For the latest coronavirus news and advice, click here.

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