Jun 24, 2013

    Keep working, keep living, says PM

    AS THE air turned clearer last Saturday and yesterday, talk among Singaporeans was still focused on whether there would be enough masks to go around, should the haze return to hazardous levels.

    Yesterday, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong addressed such concerns, and assured Singaporeans that there will be enough masks for everyone who needs them. There is no need to panic or hoard masks as the country battles the haze, he said.

    Mr Lee, speaking to reporters at the Ang Mo Kio Group Representation Constituency and Sengkang West Single Member Constituency Town Hall Meeting, said that the Ministry of Health (MOH) is currently distributing its stockpile of nine million N95 masks to clinics, pharmacies and retailers.

    Over the past weekend, more than four million masks were "pushed out" by MOH, said Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen yesterday. Dr Ng is the chairman of the Haze Inter-ministerial Committee announced last week.

    One million masks were given out to the elderly and low-income households for free.

    The other three million masks went to retailers, said Dr Ng on the sidelines of a community visit in Toa Payoh to distribute N95 masks to seniors.

    At a separate event yesterday, Minister for Foreign Affairs and Law K. Shanmugam urged Singaporeans not to panic when it comes to N95 masks.

    "The Government will help all those who are vulnerable, and we will make sufficient masks available to everyone who needs it," said Mr Shanmugam, who was giving out masks to low-income households in Yishun Avenue 5.

    Mr Lee also urged people to go on with their lives.

    "Within Singapore, we have to carry on with our lives," he said. "Keep on working, keep on living."

    Mr Shanmugam stressed that Singaporeans should take note of the 24-hour Pollutant Standards Index (PSI).

    He added that he will ask for a clarification on the "contradictory signals" sent by the Indonesian government regarding the list of Singapore-linked firms which apparently use fire to clear land.

    "We need clear clarification, and a clear statement from Indonesia, together with evidence," said Mr Shanmugam.

    Mr Lee also sought to alleviate concerns over the haze, assuring the public that the Government has expressed serious concern about it to the Indonesian authorities, even offering to help.

    Several Cabinet ministers have said that Singapore is willing to offer help to fight the fires in Indonesia that are causing the haze.

    Mr Lee added yesterday that it is important for Singaporeans to "be ready if (the haze) gets worse", explaining that it may persist for weeks or even months.

    Mr Ang Hak Seng, chief executive director of the People's Association, told reporters that all air-conditioned community centres and residents' committees will be open to the public as haze shelters, should people be out and find themselves needing a place of refuge from the smog.