Haze taskforce convened as PSI soared to record level

The Manpower Ministry may issue a stop-work order and a decision would have to be taken on whether to close schools and childcare centres if the haze situation worsens severely, said Environment and Water Resources Minister Vivian Balakrishnan in response to questions from reporters.

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In a media statement released by the National Environment Agency on Wednesday, it said 23 government agencies that form the Inter-Agency Haze Task Force (HTF) have been activated and are co-ordinating their respective action plans to mitigate the effects of haze on the public.

Here is the press release in full:

Singapore, 19 June 2013 - The 3-hour PSI reading as at 11pm is 282. The 24-hour Pollutant Standards Index (PSI) reading as at 11pm today is in the range of 130 to 150, which is in the Unhealthy range. The 24-hour PM2.5 concentration is 160 to 202µg/m3 as at 11pm today. We expect the 24-hour PSI to increase overnight and may reach Very Unhealthy levels.

Haze Situation

Drier weather conditions in the region have led to an escalation in hotspot activities mainly over central Sumatra. 187 and 173 hotspots were detected over Sumatra on 18 and 19 June 2013 respectively. The smoke haze from the fires in Sumatra was brought over by prevailing winds blowing from the southwest or west, and has affected Singapore since 13 June 2013. We expect the wind and weather conditions to remain constant and therefore the haze will persist.

Based on the 24-hour PSI readings, the Ministry of Health (MOH) advises that Singaporeans limit prolonged or heavy outdoor activities. In particular, children, the elderly, and those with heart or lung diseases, should avoid outdoor activities and seek medical treatment early if they feel unwell. MOH has activated the hospitals to prepare for the anticipated increase in the number of cases of asthma, bronchitis and conjunctivitis.

Whole-of-Government Coordinated Approach

Given the current haze situation, all 23 Government agencies that form the Inter-Agency Haze Task Force (HTF) have been activated and are co-ordinating their respective action plans to mitigate the effects of haze on the public (see Annex A for list of HTF members).

The guidelines and advisories issued by the agencies to their respective sectors continue to be relevant. For example, the Ministry of Education (MOE) has disseminated guidelines on limiting outdoor physical activities in schools, and the Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF) requires childcare centres and kindergartens to cancel all outdoor activities for the children and for the operators to monitor the health situation of the children closely.

In the case of a child falling sick, his parents should be informed and medical attention sought immediately. The Ministry of Defence has in place a set of guidelines to limit outdoor activities and training based on the PSI readings. This ensures that SAF troops can train safely by modifying the nature and intensity of outdoor activities.

The Ministry of Home Affairs is also adopting appropriate precautionary measures for the well-being of our Home Team officers and National Servicemen deployed for active duties, while ensuring that overall safety and security functions are not compromised.

The HTF will continue to monitor the situation closely. HTF agencies will provide further advisories should the haze situation deteriorate.

International Developments

The Minister for Foreign Affairs and Minister for the Environment and Water Resources had earlier conveyed the seriousness of the situation to their Indonesian counterparts and urged immediate action. CEO of NEA, Mr Andrew Tan, will be leading a delegation to Jakarta tomorrow, 20 June 2013, for an emergency haze meeting convened by the Indonesian Foreign Ministry.

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