Haze: Schools in Singapore step up measures to protect students

Hazy conditions causing discomfort to pedestrians near Rivervale Plaza at about 7pm yesterday. At 9pm yesterday, the 24-hour PSI was between 133 and 166.
Hazy conditions causing discomfort to pedestrians near Rivervale Plaza at about 7pm yesterday. At 9pm yesterday, the 24-hour PSI was between 133 and 166.PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI FOR THE STRAITS TIMES

Some cancel outdoor activities and have air purifiers ready; pharmacy chains report rise in N95 mask sales

SINGAPORE - A number of schools have cancelled or moved outdoor activities indoors as the haze situation in Singapore worsens.

At Ang Mo Kio Secondary School, physical education classes were moved into the indoor sports hall when the school reopened on Monday (Sept 14) after the September week-long holidays.

Principal Abdul Mannan said the school's N-level cohort started examinations yesterday in air-conditioned classrooms to shield them from the haze. The school also has air purifiers on standby if the air quality deteriorates further.

Mr Mannan said: "We will try to allocate them to classes with a large number of students who have respiratory issues."

Many other schools will be taking similar precautions. Education Ministry guidelines state that schools should minimise outdoor activities when air quality is in the unhealthy range, and stop all physical activity when it enters the very unhealthy range.

Air quality is at very unhealthy levels when the 24-hour Pollutant Standards Index (PSI) falls between 201 and 300.

Schools say they are on alert for when the haze hits such levels.

"We are all prepared - we have masks ready for the kids and we have air purifiers," said Mrs Ruby Seah, principal of the AWWA School for students with special needs.

"If the haze gets worse, we will have to make use of all the air-conditioned rooms, including the meeting rooms."

At 9pm yesterday, the 24-hour PSI was between 133 and 166. The unhealthy range is 101-200.

Raffles Medical Group, which runs a string of general practitioner clinics, said there has been a 10 to 20 per cent spike in the number of patients with haze-related conditions such as eye or throat irritation.

"The whole spectrum from young children to the elderly are affected," said Dr Michael Lee, deputy medical director at Raffles Medical.

"The group expects to see more patients seeking treatment in the coming weeks if the haze continues to worsen."

Pharmacy chains also reported an increase in N95 face mask sales compared with previous months, but said they are unlikely to face a shortage.

Guardian Pharmacy said it has seen a 20 per cent increase in mask sales during the past two weeks, while a Watsons spokesman said its mask sales have gone up by more than 80 per cent.

NTUC Health's Unity Pharmacy has seen a tenfold increase in the sale of N95 masks, said sales director for wholesale and housebrand Andy Wan.

"In addition, we are also stocking up on other haze-related items such as eye drops, inhalers and medication to relieve throat irritation," he said.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 15, 2015, with the headline 'Schools step up measures to protect students'. Print Edition | Subscribe