No construction activities, fewer cars in Beijing as city goes on smog red alert

The Central Business District area in Beijing shrouded in heavy smog. The city has issued its first ever red alert for air pollution.
The Central Business District area in Beijing shrouded in heavy smog. The city has issued its first ever red alert for air pollution. PHOTO: REUTERS
A labourer working at the construction site of a business building amid heavy smog in central Beijing on Dec 8, 2015.
A labourer working at the construction site of a business building amid heavy smog in central Beijing on Dec 8, 2015. PHOTO: REUTERS
The China Central Television (CCTV) building and the Central Business District (CBD) area shrouded in heavy smog  in Beijing on Dec 8, 2015.
The China Central Television (CCTV) building and the Central Business District (CBD) area shrouded in heavy smog in Beijing on Dec 8, 2015.PHOTO: REUTERS
A tourist using his mobile phone to take a picture during a flag-raising ceremony amid heavy smog in Beijing, China, on Dec 8, 2015.
A tourist using his mobile phone to take a picture during a flag-raising ceremony amid heavy smog in Beijing, China, on Dec 8, 2015.PHOTO: REUTERS
Morning commuters waiting in line at the Tiantongyuan subway station on a smoggy day in Beijing, China, on Dec 8, 2015.
Morning commuters waiting in line at the Tiantongyuan subway station on a smoggy day in Beijing, China, on Dec 8, 2015. PHOTO: REUTERS
A boy wearing a mask sitting on the shoulders of a man as they watch a flag-raising ceremony amid heavy smog at the Tiananmen Square in Beijing, China, on Dec 8, 2015.
A boy wearing a mask sitting on the shoulders of a man as they watch a flag-raising ceremony amid heavy smog at the Tiananmen Square in Beijing, China, on Dec 8, 2015.PHOTO: REUTERS
A woman wearing a protective mask taking a walk at a park on an extremely polluted day in Beijing, China on Dec 8, 2015.
A woman wearing a protective mask taking a walk at a park on an extremely polluted day in Beijing, China on Dec 8, 2015.PHOTO: REUTERS
People wearing protective masks riding bicycles in Beijing, China on Dec 8, 2015.
People wearing protective masks riding bicycles in Beijing, China on Dec 8, 2015.PHOTO: REUTERS
Morning commuters wearing protective masks passing by a food vendor in central Beijing on Dec 8, 2015.
Morning commuters wearing protective masks passing by a food vendor in central Beijing on Dec 8, 2015. PHOTO: REUTERS

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."

chengwee@sph.com.sg