Singapore schools close for first time as haze hits hazardous levels

A man wearing a mask watches from a bumboat as he passes the haze-shrouded central business district in Singapore Sept 24, 2015. The three-hour Pollutant Standards Index (PSI) reached a hazardous level of 317 at 8pm Thursday. - Reuters

SINGAPORE: The haze situation worsened on Friday morning as the Pollutant Standards Index (PSI) hit the hazardous range. As of 7am, the 24-hour PSI was 263-321. It was hovering in the Very Unhealthy region (201-300) throughout Thursday but hit 309 at 4am on Friday before climbing to 334 at 6am.

All primary and secondary schools across Singapore will close on Friday due to worsening haze conditions, the Government announced on Thursday night.

Kindergartens run by the Ministry of Education (MOE) and special education schools will also be closed.

Teachers, however, will still need to go to school to supervise students whose parents are not able to make alternative arrangements for them.

This is the first time Singapore's schools are being closed due to the haze.

Some GCE O-level exams set for Friday have been postponed, while the Primary School Leaving Examination (PSLE) hangs in the balance, as written papers are set to begin next week.

"There will be no national shutdown of workplaces," said Lim, though he added that companies should take measures to help employees, such as enforcing more frequent breaks and making work less strenuous.

Its government is also adding to earlier measures to help people cope with the haze – vulnerable and needy Singaporeans will be able to collect masks from 108 community centres islandwide.

Organisations are already taking steps to safeguard members of the public and workers.

The Singapore Sports Hub, for example, suspended strenuous outdoor activities and fast-food restaurants like McDonald's and KFC halted delivery services for now.

There might be some respite over the weekend, as winds are forecast to shift.

But the hazy conditions might last for another month or more, as this is an El Nino year which could see dry weather until November, warned Dr Balakrishnan.

"Our offer of assistance to (the Indonesian authorities) is still on the table, and we still stand ready to work with our Asean partners to resolve this problem," he reiterated.

Foreign and law minister K. Shanmugam affirmed this stance and described his observations in a Facebook post last night.

He wrote; "As I walked around, the impact of the haze, on people, was obvious. I was coughing, eyes itching, the heat oppressive. Our senior citizens must be feeling much worse."

Indonesian President Joko Widodo, who was visiting emergency workers in Banjarbaru, South Kalimantan on Wednesday, had planned to inspect ground conditions and firefighting efforts in Sumatra Thursday but worsening conditions in Kalimantan prompted him to postpone the trip.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong reminded people to take care of their health.

In a Facebook post Thursday, he wrote; "Please drink plenty of water, and avoid going outdoors if you can. Look out for neighbours and friends, and stay safe." - The Straits Times/Asia News Network

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Singapore , Haze , Environment , Schools


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