Help for households, seniors to cope with haze

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong beckons an elderly resident to adjust her AIR+ Smart Mask after putting it on for her.
Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong beckons an elderly resident to adjust her AIR+ Smart Mask after putting it on for her. ST PHOTO: KEVIN LIM

Nearly 60,000 households and senior citizens will get equipment to cope with the haze, as air quality remained in the unhealthy range for most of yesterday.

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong kicked off two nationwide distribution exercises that will provide items such as N95 masks and eyedrops to those who need them to combat the haze.

First, he distributed special N95 masks to about 100 seniors at a senior activity centre in Ang Mo Kio, as part of a $300,000 initiative by Temasek Cares - the non-profit, philanthropic arm of Temasek Holdings - and home-grown engineering firm ST Engineering.

The AIR+ Smart Masks are N95 masks that come in three sizes, designed by ST Engineering subsidiary Innosparks. They can also be fitted with a detachable and rechargeable ventilator that improves air flow through the mask and makes them more comfortable.

About 29,000 masks and 6,000 micro ventilators will be distributed to the 60 senior activity centres across Singapore by the weekend.

Mr Lee also launched the distribution of the People's Association (PA) WeCare PAcks, which will go to 30,000 vulnerable households, mainly seniors and residents with medical conditions who live alone. Each pack comes with items, such as N95 masks and instant noodles, donated by FairPrice Foundation and the local business community.

PA chief executive director Ang Hak Seng said that after Singapore experienced its worst haze two years ago, the PA updated its database to make sure vulnerable residents would receive the help they need. The packs will be distributed within a week.

Air quality in Singapore was slightly better yesterday than it has been for much of the week, with the 24-hour Pollutant Standards Index (PSI) hovering in the low end of the unhealthy range. The National Environment Agency has said wind direction could change tomorrow, which would ease the haze.

Non-governmental groups and individuals are also playing a part.

Environmental group World Wide Fund for Nature Singapore, working with volunteer group People's Movement to Stop Haze and the non-government Singapore Institute of International Affairs, has started a campaign to raise awareness of the haze.

Volunteers were in places such as Orchard Road to distribute masks, and encourage people to switch to brands that use sustainable palm oil, grown without hurting wildlife or cutting primary and high-conservation-value forests.

Another group, Stand Up For Our Singapore, started a crowdfunding drive on Monday night to raise funds to buy air filters and air purifiers for the low-income elderly in North Bridge Road. Over $4,000 was raised within the first 24 hours.

• Additional reporting by Seow Bei Yi

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 17, 2015, with the headline 'Help for households, seniors to cope with haze'. Print Edition | Subscribe