Haze expected to last today as S'pore votes
SINGAPORE was hit with this year's highest levels of haze yesterday, prompting more to stay indoors.
And for Singaporeans heading out to the polls today, the hazy conditions are expected to persist.
The 24-hour Pollutant Standards Index (PSI) yesterday rose steadily through the day to hit between 123 and 137 by 9pm. This figure is in the lower part of the unhealthy range of 101 to 200. A PSI reading between 201 and 300 is very unhealthy, while one above 300 is hazardous.
At 9pm, the three-hour PSI, which is averaged over a shorter period, was 193.
The National Environment Agency (NEA) said in an 8pm update that the 24-hour PSI for the next 24 hours is expected to be in the low to mid level of the unhealthy range. It may further deteriorate if the winds are unfavourable.
Environment and Water Resources Minister Vivian Balakrishnan conveyed Singapore's deep concern over the deteriorating haze situation to Indonesian Minister of Environment and Forestry Siti Nurbaya Bakar yesterday, when the number of hot spots detected in Sumatra increased to 328 from 140 the day before.
Dr Balakrishnan has called for urgent actions to be undertaken, including stricter enforcement actions against the perpetrators.
Along with Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen, he repeated Singapore's offer to assist efforts to combat the ongoing forest fires in Sumatra. The armed forces here have put on standby aircraft to seed clouds and get involved in aerial firefighting.
Several firms already started implementing contingency plans.
International education group EtonHouse, which runs 17 pre-schools, suspended outdoor activities once the PSI reading went above 100 yesterday.
Hexacon Construction has also implemented its contingency plan, providing its workers with N95 masks and encouraging them to take more frequent breaks or to stop work when they feel unwell.
Doctors also reported a spike of up to 20 per cent in patients with haze-related conditions, such as blocked noses and irritated skin.
Said Michael Lee Wai Kheng, the deputy medical director of Raffles Medical Group: "We expect to see more patients seeking treatment in the coming weeks if the haze continues to worsen."
Undergraduate Benny Sng, 24, said that since yesterday morning, he had a sore throat, itchy eyes and a runny nose. He is planning to take precautions when he votes on Polling Day today, which has been declared a public holiday.
"I'm not looking forward to standing in the queue (today at the polling station), even though it is my first time voting. If the air quality worsens, I will take a mask along with me."
The worsening haze has also disrupted the plans for some over the long weekend. "I had originally planned to visit the Botanic Gardens with my family on Saturday. But with the haze so bad, I'm planning to stay indoors," said billing executive Josephine Lim, 49.