Down and out because of the haze

Madam Chandra had to add two more fans to her existing three fans to keep cool, while her son, Mr Dayalan is down with a throat infection because of the haze.

With four people crammed in a one-room rental flat, Mr Thiagarajan's family used three small fans to make sure it did not get too stuffy.

But with the haze hitting unhealthy levels this month, they recently bought another two fans so that they can breathe easier.

Mr Thiagarajan, a 27-year-old nightclub supervisor, told The New Paper: "The haze makes it hard to breathe. My family is very irritated because we have had no choice but to close the window."

But closing the window also makes it hotter indoors.

"It's hotter than usual, so we now have five fans ," said Mr Thiagarajan, who lives with his parents and brother.

Speaking from his family's 10th floor unit at Mei Ling Street, Mr Thiagarajan said one fan costs around $30 to $40.

"But even with the fans, it's still quite stuffy. From 6pm to 7pm, the place is like a sauna so we have to open the door for fresh air," he said.

Mr Thiagarajan's family was one of 18 families The New Paper team spoke to who live in one-room rental flats and are more affected by the haze than well-to-do Singaporeans who live in air-conditioned homes.

The haze is taking a toll on the health of Mr Thiagarajan's family, with one brother resting at home on three days' medical leave and the rest of the family having difficulty breathing.

"My brother is sick with a throat infection and fever. The doctor told us it's because of the haze," said Mr Thiagarajan of his brother, port worker Dayalan, 25.

Mr Dayalan lay smothered in blankets on a bed in a corner of the stuffy unit and was in no condition to talk.

FALLING SICK

"I'm falling sick as well. It's very hard to breathe for all of us," said Mr Thiagarajan.

Aside from installing more fans and buying N95 masks, the family's daily routine has changed.

When he returns from work in the morning, Mr Thiagarajan goes to the market to buy groceries for his 47-year-old mother, housewife Madam Chandra.

Another Mei Ling Street resident, Mr Yahya Abdul Kader, 48, was on medical leave last week.

He lives in the same block with his 85-year-old mother, Madam Monah Selamat, and has been to a nearby clinic thrice with his mother.

Coughing, the store manager said: "After the first week of the haze, my mother had breathing difficulties and she gets headaches.

"I've also been coughing through the night and had to take three days' medical leave."

Mr Yahya has bought some N95 masks and kept all his windows shut.

"I am the only breadwinner so we don't want to incur extra electricity costs from installing an air-conditioner," said Mr Yahya.

"We have had to turn the fan on for 24 hours, previously we only turned it on at night. It's very stuffy."

Another resident, Mr Mohd Taufiq, 28, living at Block 419, Casa Clementi, has been experiencing minor chest pains.

The technician collected two N95 masks from the Residents' Committee (RC) for himself and his 62-year-old mother who lives with him.

CHEST PAINS

"Visually, it's worse than in 2013. In 2013, I didn't wear a mask because I didn't feel affected by the haze," he said.

Mr Taufiq now sees to his family's daily marketing needs as his mother has been complaining of chest pains and breathing difficulties. "I've no choice," he said with a laugh.

Housewife Madam Chitra, 48, wraps a shawl around her face so she can save the surgical masks that her husband, Mr Mogan, a security guard, bought.

She lives in a one-room rental flat in Casa Clementi with him and their 10-year-old son.

"I feel very sweaty and my mouth gets dry easily," she said.

A Casa Clementi resident in her 60s, who wanted to be known only as Madam Tan, said in Mandarin that she would rather stay at home than go out to collect the free N95 masks from the community centre (CC).

"The CC is too far. It's about two to three bus stops away,"

Madam Tan, who lives alone, added: "My friend told me that the queue to collect the masks is very long.

"When I need to go to the market to buy food, then I'll plan on going out."

Lions Befrienders volunteers have been distributing masks to the elderly at their centres around Singapore.

Dr Chey Chor Khoon, 67, executive director of Lions Befrienders, said: "Our senior activities centre is still open for old folks, and we distribute masks which are given by the Government to the elderly who visit all our centres around Singapore.

"We encourage the elderly to go to our centres because there is air-conditioning there."

Help for haze problems

The Haze Subsidy Scheme caps medical fees for Singaporean children, the elderly and lower income families who are suffering from haze-related conditions.

It is available at more than 450 polyclinics and public health preparedness clinics (PHPC).

These clinics can be identified by the PHPC logo or the Haze Subsidy Scheme poster.

Under this scheme, pioneers need not pay more than $5, and other eligible Singaporeans need not pay more than $10.

The remaining costs will be subsidised by the Ministry of Health (MOH).

Public Assistance (PA) cardholders enjoy fully subsidised care.

For more information, visit the MOH website.

HAZE SHELTERS

Your nearest air-conditioned neighbourhood centre can now provide relief from the haze.

The People's Association (PA) announced last Friday that all 108 community centres and clubs (CCs) island-wide will act as haze shelters and will stay open until midnight daily.

Should the 24-hour PSI level cross the 300 mark, CCs will operate 24 hours daily.

Residents' Committee (RC) centres will also be open until 10pm.

FREE N95 MASKS

Free N95 masks distributed by PA are available to eligible Singaporeans and permanent residents at all 108 CCs.

Those eligible:

* All holders of MOH's Community Health Assist Scheme (CHAS) Blue card

* All Pioneer Generation Card holders* All ComCare clients above 62 years old

* ComCare clients identified as having longer-term medical issues, regardless of age

* All Singapore citizens who meet the CHAS Blue Card criterion of having less than $1,100 household per-capita income

Lions Befrienders is also distributing free N95 masks at its centres around the island.

Eligible Singaporeans and permanent residents can collect two masks each, upon presenting the blue CHAS card or Pioneer Generation Card.

Members of the public can also collect two masks each at the Red Cross House near Dhoby Ghaut MRT.

This article was first published on September 30, 2015.
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