Schools may reopen next week

If the Pollutant Standards Index (PSI) continues to be in the moderate range, schools could reopen on Monday, going by what Minister for the Environment and Water Resources Vivian Balakrishnan said yesterday.

"If, for instance, this was a school week and (it was) under these current conditions, I would have no hesitation (in) advising the Minister of Education that it is safe to open schools," he said.

But Dr Balakrishnan said it was still too early to make a call, and his ministry would be monitoring the situation while coordinating closely with the Ministry of Education (MOE).

Speaking on the sidelines of a visit to Chestnut Avenue Waterworks, he said MOE will keep parents informed over the next couple of days on whether schools would reopen after the June holidays.

MOE added it will "take reference from health advisories and work closely with schools to put in place appropriate measures to ensure the well-being of our students and staff".

Since Monday, Singapore has enjoyed haze relief, with the 24-hour PSI staying mostly in the moderate range of 51 to 100.

This contrasted with last Friday, when the 24-hour PSI fluctuated between 154 and 239 from 12am to 11pm, with the three-hour PSI hitting a record high of 401 at one point.

Dr Balakrishnan also said the haze - brought about by forest fires in Riau, Indonesia - has had no impact on water quality here.

National water agency PUB said PM2.5, or fine particulate matter smaller than 2.5 microns found in the haze, can be filtered out during water treatment.

It said that filter membranes can sieve out particles as small as 0.02 microns, which is "way smaller" than 2.5 microns.

Dr Balakrishnan further assured Singaporeans that the PUB does not have a "stop-work order" should the haze situation worsen, and clean water will continue to flow to homes.

For example, Chestnut Avenue Waterworks is a highly automated water-treatment plant with built-in redundancy.

However, he said that, in the event the haze reaches hazardous levels, essential services like public waste disposal and cleaning may have to be scaled down.

While this could affect the frequency of refuse collection, for instance, he said that if all Singaporeans "do our part to keep our neighbourhoods clean, there shouldn't be a significant impact on the ground".

The National Environment Agency said the 24-hour PSI is still expected to be in the moderate band today.

The level of PM2.5 is expected to be slightly elevated. Therefore, the health advisory continues to be for the unhealthy range.

Thunderstorms are expected in the late morning and afternoon.

Long queues as Singaporeans rush to buy masksClick on thumbnail to view (Photos: ST, TNP)