Man, 79, jogging at noon: "The haze is nothing"

PHOTO: Man, 79, jogging at noon: "The haze is nothing"

SINGAPORE - The haze may have hit a record high, with a PSI of 321, on Wednesday night, followed by an even higher 371 on Thursday afternoon. But life has to go on.

At one end of the scale, the kiasu ones have scooped up most, if not all, of the N95 face masks on sale at various outlets.

A Guardian Pharmacy outlet in Toa Payoh had a customer waiting list that was 3½ pages long. The pent-up demand has inevitably led to profiteering.

A man was hawking N95 masks to office workers in the Central Business District for $10 each, about four times more than the recommended retail price, reported Reuters. Others have gone online to offer the masks at inflated prices.

Even at retail outlets, the prices have shot up. Whereas a pack of 20 masks of the popular 3M brand cost about $20 a week ago, it now goes for up to $42. (See report on Page 4)

At the other end, there are the bochap ones who refuse to let the haze, even when it reached hazardous levels (PSI of 300 and above), disrupt their daily routines or indulgences.

Hello Kitty

Like the many Hello Kitty devotees who queued up outside McDonald's outlets across the island just to get their hands on the latest plush toy on offer.

Most of them, like analyst Sunil Frank, 27, and his three colleagues, were not wearing masks.

After queuing for 45 minutes in the sun and haze at the McDonald's at Boat Quay yesterday, they bought a total of nine toys. "We'll do anything for Hello Kitty," Mr Frank said.

Executive H.Y. Tay, 22, who was in the queue outside McDonald's at Ang Mo Kio Avenue 4 on Wednesday night, said: "I had decided a week in advance to go early as I knew there would be a queue, but I reconsidered when I saw how bad the haze was.

"Eventually, I was really curious how many people would turn up even in such a grave situation, so I went ahead just for fun."

Then, there was 79-year-old cleaner Luo Yong who was jogging on the track at Toa Payoh Stadium at around noon on Thursday.

He said: "The haze is nothing. I exercise here every day and today is no exception. I jog about five or six rounds a day and I have no health problems."

Over at the neighbouring swimming complex, student Javeen Kumar, 14, was in the water with three friends.

He said: "We're not worried about the haze. My parents are not very worried either. My mother just told me to take care and not get fever."

But the stadiums and swimming complexes were largely empty yesterday. At Woodlands Stadium, signs were put up to discourage people from exercising.

A worker there said: "I've seen only one or two people since 8.30am. Normally, there would be over 20 people jogging every morning."

One of them was saleswoman Lian Gomez, 25, who was seen running there at about 9.45am.

She said: "When I don't run, I'll feel very tired so I decided to push myself this morning though I ran for only 20 minutes instead of the usual 45 minutes. And I wore a mask."

At East Coast Park, a few youngsters were also seen Rollerblading.

But business has been so bad at bicycle rental shop Cycle Max over the past few days that it started offering free masks and water bottles to entice customers yesterday.

Its operations manager, Mr Simon Tan (left), said: "Normally, on weekday mornings, we have 40 to 50 customers, but we've had only five so far today."

Then there were those like businesswoman Siti Zubaidah Jaffar, 29, who was determined not to let the haze spoil her months of planning for her wedding.

So she and her 32-year-old husband went ahead with their wedding reception at her family home in Kheam Hock Road yesterday.

"It's one day in our whole lives," she said.

What really bugged her about the haze was that her husband's family had flown here from the Netherlands."I wanted to take them to Marina Bay Sands but because of the haze, we won't be able to appreciate the view there," she said.

"They will be here till July. Hopefully, the haze will clear by then."

Meanwhile, some have developed health problems because of the haze.

Part-time saleswoman Abby Soong, 49, and her 16-year-old daughter went swimming at Downtown East on Wednesday.

On Thursday morning, the mother had to see a doctor for irritation in her eyes and a sore throat.

Non-essential town council services postponed

PAP Town Councils are postponing non-essential maintenance services such as landscaping works, block washing, removal of bulky items, spring cleaning of markets and food centres, pruning and tree-felling.

Dr Teo Ho Pin, the town councils' coordinating chairman, said that workers providing essential maintenance services, such as lift rescues and emergency repairs, will be issued with N95 masks.

Ensure health and safety of workers: NTUC

The National Trades Union Congress (NTUC) has called on employers to take immediate and proactive measures to ensure the health and safety of their workers.

Employers should exercise discretion and flexibility, and make necessary adjustments to minimise risks posed by exposure to the haze.

Appropriate protective masks must be issued for outdoor work and if workers are unwell, they should stop and rest indoors.

NTU prof bringing up the H.E.A.T.

WHEN the haze hit in 2007, he formed the Haze Elimination Action Team (H.E.A.T.) and raised about $20,000 for a website and an educational effort in Jambi, South Sumatra. There has been no major fire there since.

Now, Nanyang Technological University professor Ang Peng Hwa is reviving it.

He has also called for a boycott of products from firms contributing to the haze.

Fast-food chains stop home deliveries

Fast-food outlets such as Pizza Hut, McDonald's, Pastamania and KFC have suspended their home delivery services.

Some companies have introduced work-from-home initiatives for some of their employees.

For more haze updates from AsiaOne, click here:

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