Do you know what’s more fatal than COVID?

As in many countries the corona virus lockdown has been swayed off, the new practice of wearing discarded face masks and gloves is posing another threat to the human health and the global environment. Decades of hardworking turning consumers away from single-use plastics went down the drain with the compulsory usage of the discarded face mask.  Before Covid-19 hit the world it kind of felt like the world was waking up to the harm of plastics. Across the globe many groundbreaking piece of legislation banning all kinds of single-use plastics were about to pass but then corona virus hit and everything took a sudden turn.

COVID 19 has left its mark on individuals, families and nations as a whole and it will take a long time to regain the momentum with which we are moving forward in our lives. Along with humans, it also affects nature.  For the time being, when we were all confined to our homes and working or learning from there, the consumption levels of natural gas and other fossil fuels fell down quite a lot and it did show some impacts on the environment in the form of decreased levels of CO2, ozone depletion has also to some extent decreased and overall a better air quality was observed. Many of the natural habitats recovered as well when humans weren’t poking around. But when we see at the larger picture of this whole situation that we were in for almost one and a half year, then it displays even more concerning points.

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Face masking is now a legal requirement in many public sector around the world but before its mandatory use, masks were causing litter problems on land and at sea. Promoting wearing masks as an easy way to control the spread of pandemic has dramatically increased the production of disposable masks. We have been using disposable masks, gloves and plastics extensively since corona virus swept the world with its deadly onslaught. We have been using disposable masks, gloves and plastics extensively since the Corona virus succeeded in its deadly attacks around the world but despite knowing the outcomes of the disposable masks and gloves, the UN agencies and its partners spread it all over the world. Without better disposal practices, an environmental disaster is looming. Most masks are made of long-lasting plastic, and if discarded, they can rot in the environment for hundreds of thousands of years.

Plastic breaks down into smaller pieces and over time more and more small debris spreads in nature, small particles are basically a long-lasting polymer that can accumulate in food chains, each with the potential to carry chemicals and bacteria up the food chain and potentially even into humans.

This huge consumption will show their effects in the near future and when that time approaches slowly, it will be much worse than what we have seen. Government and authorities have no plans for the environmental crisis in coming years that will follow this pandemic which is yet to come to an end. The Covid-19 pandemic was just one part of the picture and if we do not let nature follow its course and play our part in recovering our environment’s health then who knows how many pandemics are waiting for us along the road.

Ahmed Hassan 

Islamabad 

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