Operation Retrovirus takes aim at clinical waste crime

Hospital waste (symbolic image)
03.12.2020 − 

Concerns have arisen in the midst of the coronavirus outbreak that the pandemic might trigger an increase in illegal treatment and disposal of clinical waste. To address this potential public health threat, the European police authority Europol launched Operation Retrovirus, an international effort targeting document fraud and the illegal trafficking, storage, disposal and shipment of sanitary and clinical waste.

According to Europol, almost 280,000 inspections and 102 arrests were carried out as part of the operation. Among them were inspections by the Spanish Civil Guard’s environmental unit, Seprona, at an unnamed company with sites in Barcelona, Madrid, Murcia, Valencia, Tarragona and Zaragoza and links to another company from the Portuguese capital Lisbon. Spanish officials searched nine sites and arrested 20 people for "crimes against the environment, workers' rights and public health".

According to Europol, the sanitary waste processed by the company had not been sterilised properly prior to disposal. The company had shortened the treatment time in order to increase throughput and profits. This inappropriate treatment of potentially Covid-infected waste poses a high risk to public health, according to the law enforcement agency.

Arrests in Portugal and almost €800,000 in assets seized

In Portugal, the National Republican Guard (Guarda Nacional Republicana) reportedly inspected more than 2,000 businesses, hospitals and health centres. As a result of the site visits, several administrative violations were discovered, 30 arrests made and assets worth almost €800,000 seized.

Law enforcement authorities also focused on the transport of clinical and sanitary waste within the EU. For example, authorities from the Czech Republic, Poland, Romania and Slovakia have repeatedly identified illegal shipments and returned them to their countries of origin, Europol said.

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