RETIREMENT, St James — Executive director of the National Solid Waste Management Authority (NSWMA) Audley Gordon has urged individuals sorting waste at the Retirement Disposal Site in St James, to adopt good personal hygiene in the wake of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

Gordon, who met with the group of people, commonly referred to as ‘hustlers’, at the facility on Wednesday, also encouraged them to boost their immune system.

“Buy vitamin C. You can buy little bleach, little alcohol, and little hand sanitisers, buy them and use them regularly, and get some gloves [for] when you are digging up the garbage because you don’t know when pieces of tissue, dust mask or a napkin or a wipe with the virus will come into contact with your hands when you are searching,” Gordon urged.

He told the hustlers who rummage for items of value to sell that they should also pay close attention to the information being circulated by the health authorities.

“My visit today (Wednesday) is one of love for my neighbour because you are my neighbour, and I want you to be healthy, because if you are not healthy, the entire society is not healthy. Practise good hygiene and obey warnings and directives issued by the health and wellness ministry officials, then we will help to stop the virus,” he told them.

The executive director later told reporters that while the hustlers — some of whom make up the approximately 20 people living illegally on the landfill — are not supposed to be there, it is the responsibility of the NSWMA to communicate the COVID-19 message to them.

“I believe that if we don’t talk to them through this period, if we don’t brief them, if we don’t get them to buy into the national message… nobody will. So they become our responsibility to communicate the message to them and to ensure that they adopt the best practices,” Gordon explained.

In the meantime, Gordon disclosed that the NSWMA has taken steps to protect its staff.

He noted that the company’s information technology department has put measures in place to facilitate about 40 per cent of its administrative staff working from home.

In recent days, the Government has implemented strict guidelines that have resulted in the closing of schools and some businesses, among other things, as a means of curtailing the spread of the virus.

Gordon, in thanking his staff for “staying on the front line”, made it clear, however, that the waste management entity’s efforts to keep the country clean have not been reduced.

“We are working non-stop through this crisis as a member of the essential service team. Yes, it is going to come with some risks; yes, there is some anxiety among our staff… but we will have to urge them to do for themselves what we can’t do for them, because while we can protect them at work, we can’t protect them at home,” said Gordon.

Observer writer

Friday, March 20,2020