SINGAPORE - The haze situation improved on Friday afternoon even though the 24-hour PSI remained in the higher end of the Very Unhealthy range.
As of 11pm, the 24-hour PSI was 182-228. It hit the hazardous range (above 300) at 4am on Friday and climbed to 322 at 8am. The 3-hour PSI, which is not tied to the health advisory, is 109 at 11pm.
All primary and secondary schools across Singapore are closed on Friday due to worsening haze conditions. Kindergartens run by the Ministry of Education (MOE) and special education schools are also closed.
Teachers, however, will still need to go to school to supervise students whose parents are not able to make alternative arrangements for them.
This is the first time Singapore's schools are being closed due to the haze.
Some GCE O-level exams set for Friday have been postponed, while the Primary School Leaving Examination (PSLE) hangs in the balance, as written papers are set to begin next week.
"There will be no national shutdown of workplaces," said Manpower Minister Lim Swee Say on Thursday, though he added that companies should take measures to help employees, such as enforcing more frequent breaks and making work less strenuous.
The Government is also adding to earlier measures to help people cope with the haze: vulnerable and needy Singaporeans will be able to collect masks from 108 community centres islandwide from 10am to 10pm from Friday.
Organisations are already taking steps to safeguard members of the public and workers.
The Singapore Sports Hub, for example, suspended strenuous outdoor activities and fast-food restaurants like McDonald's and KFC halted delivery services for now.
There might be some respite over the weekend, as winds are forecast to shift.
But the hazy conditions might last for another month or more, as this is an El Nino year which could see dry weather until November, warned Environment Minister Vivian Balakrishnan.
"Our offer of assistance to (the Indonesian authorities) is still on the table, and we still stand ready to work with our Asean partners to resolve this problem," he reiterated.
Foreign and Law Minister K. Shanmugam affirmed this stance and described his observations in a Facebook post last night. He wrote: "As I walked around, the impact of the haze, on people, was obvious. I was coughing, eyes itching, the heat oppressive. Our senior citizens must be feeling much worse."
Meanwhile, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong reminded people to take care of their health.
In a Facebook post on Thursday, he wrote: "Please drink plenty of water, and avoid going outdoors if you can. Look out for neighbours and friends, and stay safe."