SINGAPORE - As haze levels soared to a record high on Thursday, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong pledged to focus on protecting vulnerable Singaporeans, working with the Indonesians to stem the problem and keeping the country going.
He outlined his approach during a press conference at the Istana, as Singapore endured yet another day where air quality reached the hazardous range.
At one point, it hit 371 on the Pollutant Standards Index (PSI), making Thursday the most hazy day in the country's history. To carry out those priorities, the Prime Minister has asked Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen to head a Haze Inter-ministerial Committee.
It will review guidelines for protecting vulnerable groups, make sure society and businesses continue to operate, and issue clear guidance on the protective measures at each PSI threshold, said Mr Lee.
His comments were an apparent signal that the haze response would involve action at home, not just engagement with Indonesia.
Mr Lee warned that it was hard to tell how the haze situation would develop. It could last for a few weeks, or even until Sumatra's dry season ends in September.
He said: "We will need to adapt our response to suit the changing situation, and protect ourselves in practical and sustainable ways."
For example, the Health Ministry will introduce a scheme allowing Singaporeans who suffer haze-related respiratory problems to see a general practitioner at certain clinics for just $10 if they are 18 or below, 65 or above, or are on public assistance.