Agencies stand ready to minimise impact of haze, says NEA

Haze in the southern part of Singapore yesterday afternoon. The problem is expected to continue in the next few days as the hot-spot activities in Sumatra are likely to persist. ST PHOTO: KELVIN CHNG
Haze in the southern part of Singapore yesterday afternoon. The problem is expected to continue in the next few days as the hot-spot activities in Sumatra are likely to persist. ST PHOTO: KELVIN CHNG

As the haze continues in Singapore today and probably the next few days, government agencies stand ready to "minimise and manage" its impact on the public, said the National Environment Agency (NEA).

It gave the assurance as the haze took a slight turn for the worse yesterday. In a statement in the afternoon, it said plans are in place for tiered responses depending on the intensity of the haze as reflected in the 24-hour Pollutant Standards Index (PSI) readings and forecasts.

The NEA, which leads the Haze Task Force comprising 28 government agencies, said plans have been implemented and advisories issued by the agencies since last Saturday, when the PSI in the west of Singapore entered the unhealthy range.

The task force is particularly mindful of the health and well-being of vulnerable groups, such as the elderly, pregnant women, children and people with chronic lung and heart diseases, said the NEA.

Yesterday, the air quality worsened, albeit slightly. At 10pm, the PSI reading ranged between 90 in the central part of Singapore and 103 in the west. This was a rise from the 11am reading of 85 to 93, which is in the moderate range.

At 10pm, the one-hour PM2.5 concentration was between 47 micrograms per cubic m in the central region and 53 micrograms per cubic m in the south, which is within the normal band.

The PM2.5 concentration, which the NEA says is a better indicator of current air quality, measures the concentration of tiny particles less than 2.5 micrometres in diameter.

In the next few days, expect Singapore to be wrapped in haze as the hot-spot activities in Sumatra will probably persist, amid the dry conditions here and in Indonesia.

 
 
 

Today, the 24-hour PSI is forecast to be between the high end of the moderate range and the low end of the unhealthy range. But it may enter the mid-section of the unhealthy range, the NEA said, if winds blow the smoke haze from central and southern Sumatra to Singapore.

A PSI reading of 101 to 200 is in the unhealthy range, for which the NEA advises people to reduce their outdoor activities.

The one-hour PM2.5 concentration readings until 5pm today are expected to fluctuate between normal and elevated bands.

With the forecast for today, people should reduce prolonged or strenuous outdoor physical activities, said the NEA. Those who feel ill, especially the elderly, children and people with chronic heart or lung conditions, should see the doctor.

Meanwhile, agencies have taken steps to help ensure that people's health are not in jeopardy. These include the Health, Education and Manpower ministries, which have reminded healthcare institutions, schools and employers to take anti-haze measures, including having air purifiers and reducing outdoor activities should the air quality worsen.

The NEA said there are enough N95 masks in government stockpiles. The People's Association will keep air-conditioned rooms in residents' committee centres and community clubs open for people if the 24-hour PSI readings cross into the "very unhealthy" range (201 to 300).

Correction note: This article has been edited for clarity.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 18, 2019, with the headline 'Agencies stand ready to minimise impact of haze, says NEA'. Print Edition | Subscribe