Singapore prepares for more hazy days

Singapore prepares for more hazy days

SINGAPORE - For a brief spell on Wednesday, Singapore's skies were the cleanest they have been in two weeks.

Between 3pm and 6pm, Singaporeans breathed "good" air as the three-hour Pollutant Standards Index (PSI) dipped below 51. It hit a low of 38 at 4pm, before climbing again.

Even so, despite the better quality air and the reprieve from the haze the past five days, the Government on Wednesday continued to roll out preparation plans as it cautioned that the respite could be short-lived.

"Our latest meteorological assessment is that the haze in this region is likely to persist for quite some time more, and Singapore remains at risk," Minister for the Environment and Water Resources Vivian Balakrishnan said yesterday.

Visiting cleaners and a water treatment plant, he outlined how cleaning and waste collection services could be slowed if the haze returned with a vengeance, and urged Singaporeans not to let their guard down.

However, he also gave the assurance that the country's clean water supply was not in danger, as its treatment and distribution process is largely automated.

"Whatever happens, your water is going to continue to flow from your taps, and your water is going to be good and safe to drink," he said.

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Meanwhile, the Health Ministry said in a statement on Wesdnesday that it is working with manufacturers and suppliers to replenish its stocks and to ensure there are enough masks here.

To date, it has released a total of 4.15 million N95 masks from its stockpile. This includes one million masks which have gone to the People's Association for distribution to low-income families, and the balance to retailers.

"The cost of the masks, including transport and storage, is recovered from the retailers," the ministry said in a reply to queries from The Straits Times.

It warned the public against counterfeit masks, and advised consumers to buy masks from major supermarkets and pharmacies.

People are also advised to approach the manufacturers or distributors if they doubt the authenticity of the masks.

On Wednesday, the Education Ministry said it is also monitoring the haze situation closely, ahead of the start of the school term next week.

It will refer to the authorities' health advisories and will work with schools to "put in place appropriate measures to ensure the well-being of our students and staff", said a spokesman.

Those expecting the spell of better quality air to last may be disappointed: The National Environment Agency (NEA) predicts a slight haze today and tomorrow, though thundery showers are forecast over the two days.

This is because low-level winds blowing from the south or south-west may bring the pollution from raging fires in Indonesia back here.

NEA added that the 24-hour levels of smaller, toxic particles called PM2.5 are also expected to remain slightly higher than usual today.

It said that for this reason, pregnant women, the elderly and children should continue to minimise prolonged outdoor activity, while those with chronic lung and heart diseases should stay indoors if possible.

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