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Battling coronavirus at medical disposal facility in Xinjiang

(Xinhua)    10:38, February 10, 2020

URUMQI, Feb. 9 (Xinhua) -- Donning white overalls, a red helmet, a pair of goggles and a mask, Feng Tao patrols a medical disposal facility, where two furnaces roar away burning medical waste at a temperature of 1,000 degrees Celcius.

Feng, 36, is a patroller at a medical waste disposal center in Urumqi, capital of northwest China's Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region. The center has disposed of a large amount of medical waste related to the novel strain of coronavirus.

Chinese health authorities Sunday said the overall confirmed novel coronavirus cases on the Chinese mainland had reached 37,198 by the end of Saturday and 811 people had died of the disease.

With the strict process, the factory turns the medical waste into up-to-standard air, with only 0.07 percent left as residue. The residue then goes through a toxicology test before being put into landfills.

"I try not to eat or drink when I work, so I can go to the restroom fewer times," Feng said. He said that if he eats or goes to the bathroom, he would have to change into new protective clothes and spend a very long time disinfecting.

"The number of the protective overalls is limited, and I want to help save them," he said.

The center's factory has three floors. Feng walks up to 30,000 steps working for eight hours.

One particular problem bothers Feng a lot -- the air escaping from his mask often forms a thin, white fog on his goggles, blurring his vision.

"I have tried many ways, but I cannot get rid of the fog," he said.

Feng wears an intercom on the left side of his chest. It rings a lot, and sometimes it is hard for him to hear the orders when donning the heavy overalls.

Feng and his 31 colleagues have been working in the center since Jan. 26.

"We don't want to go home because we are afraid of any risk of transmission to our family," he said. "But I do miss my daughter."

The center's fifth floor stores medical waste. Workers usually unload waste from vans and carry it to the fifth floor via the elevator. Later, they take the waste to the furnaces to burn.

Feng's colleague Liu Yunhe carries the waste in the center. Even with the best protective clothes, Liu wears an extra pair of gloves to avoid infection.

Liu and Feng contact the outside world via their intercoms, and other working staff supervises the center via a control cabin.

"It is hard work, and my clothes are always soaked in sweat when I get off," said Liu, 46. "But I know we are doing something important."

The center, located in the suburb area of Urumqi, is the largest-scale medical waste disposal in Xinjiang. It began operation in 2014 and can handle up to 9,000 tonnes of waste a year, including that from the cities of Urumqi, Shihezi, Wujiaqu and Fukang. It currently disposes of about 14 tonnes of medical waste on a daily basis.

"We give priority to disposing of the medical waste related to the coronavirus," said He Hailong, who runs a company in charge of the center.

In Xinjiang, there are 20 such facilities handling about 60 tonnes of waste each day. Since Jan. 20, the region has disposed of more than 1,100 tonnes of medical waste.

"All the workers have been working on the front lines since the outbreak, and their efforts truly contributed to the battle against the virus," said Yang Chun, with the regional department of ecology and environment.

(For the latest China news, Please follow People's Daily on Twitter and Facebook)(Web editor: Zhao Tong, Bianji)

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