BEIJING - Residents in Beijing woke up on Tuesday (Dec 8) to a city with no outdoor construction, fewer cars but more smog, as the emergency response to its first air pollution "red alert" kicked in.
The city's air quality index rose in the morning to breach the 300-mark, reaching hazardous levels, according to real-time data collected by the US Embassy in Beijing.
The poor visibility led the authorities to close five highways around the capital on Tuesday morning, but congestion was still reported on roads such as the airport highway.
An odd-even number plate system was also imposed on private cars, meaning that half the city's private cars are not allowed on the roads on alternate days.
Many schools were closed, as recommended by the authorities. A few, however, chose to stay open to help take in children whose parents could not take the day off work and did not want their children alone at home, Chinese media reported.
Outdoor construction sites and polluting factories were told to stop activities, with heavy trucks and transport vehicles banned from the roads.
Beijing is bracing itself for another round of bad air just a week after it suffered its worst smog in more than a year.
Readings of PM2.5 - harmful microscopic particles that penetrate deep into the lungs - had hit 634 micrograms per cubic metre in Beijing on Dec 1, or more than 25 times above the safe limit set by the World Health Organisation.
The current spell is expected to persist until Thursday (Dec 10), when a cold front is expected to disperse the smog.
"People should, to the best of their ability, reduce outdoor activities," said Beijing's Environmental Protection Bureau on its social media account.
"If you are engaging in outdoor activities you should wear a mask or take other protective measures."