Government agencies ready to tackle impact of haze, says NEA even as air quality slightly worsens

The Bukit Timah area shrouded in a light haze on the morning of Sept 17, 2019, at around 7am.
The Bukit Timah area shrouded in a light haze on the morning of Sept 17, 2019, at around 7am.ST PHOTO: NG SOR LUAN
The haze in Orchard Road on Sept 17, 2019, at 8.42am.
The haze in Orchard Road on Sept 17, 2019, at 8.42am.ST PHOTO: NG SOR LUAN

SINGAPORE - Government agencies are ready to tackle the impact of the haze, the National Environment Agency (NEA) said in a statement on Tuesday (Sept 17), even as the haze situation worsened slightly since late morning.

The Government's Haze Task Force (HTF), which is led by NEA and comprises 28 government agencies, stands ready to "minimise and manage the impact of haze on the public", NEA said on behalf of the task force.

The government agencies in the task force have plans in place that allow tiered responses depending on the intensity of the haze, which is based on the 24-hour Pollutant Standards Index (PSI) readings and forecasts.

NEA said that agencies have implemented plans and advisories to protect the health and well-being of the public - especially vulnerable groups such as the elderly, pregnant women, children and people with chronic lung and heart diseases - since the PSI in the western part of Singapore entered the unhealthy range last Saturday.

A PSI reading of 101 to 200 is in the unhealthy range, for which NEA advises the public to cut down on outdoor activities.

The task force, which was formed in 1994, meets in May every year at the start of the dry season to discuss the weather and haze situation, and to update its plans.

“The HTF will continue to monitor the situation closely. HTF agencies will provide further advisories should the haze situation deteriorate,” NEA said.

AIR QUALITY WORSENS

NEA's statement on the task force comes even as the haze situation here took a dip.

The agency said late Tuesday afternoon that the air quality in Singapore took a slight turn for the worse since late morning.

 
 
 

The deterioration was due to more haze blown into Singapore by prevailing winds, over southern Sumatra.

The 24-hour PSI reading was 90-103  at 10pm on Tuesday, in the moderate to unhealthy range.

The 1-hour PM2.5 concentration was 45-53 micrograms per cubic m in the normal band.

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

For the next few days, the weather in Singapore and Sumatra is forecast to remain generally dry, with prevailing winds blowing mainly from the south-east or south.

The hot spot activities in Sumatra are expected to persist under the dry conditions, and Singapore might continue to experience hazy conditions.

For the next 24 hours, the one-hour PM2.5 concentration readings are expected to fluctuate between the normal and elevated bands, NEA said late Tuesday afternoon.

The 24-hour PSI is forecast to range between the high end of the moderate range and the low end of the unhealthy range.

Depending on wind conditions, it might enter the mid-section of the unhealthy range if denser haze from Sumatra is blown in.

With the air quality forecast for the next 24 hours, healthy people should reduce prolonged or strenuous outdoor physical exertion, NEA said.

The elderly, pregnant women and children should minimise prolonged or strenuous outdoor physical exertion. Those with chronic lung or heart disease should avoid prolonged or strenuous outdoor physical exertion.

People who are not feeling well, especially the elderly and children, and those with chronic heart or lung conditions, should seek medical attention.

MEASURES BY VARIOUS AGENCIES 

Several public agencies have assured the public of measures they will be taking in the light of the haze situation.

The Ministry of Health (MOH) has reminded healthcare institutions, including public hospitals, polyclinics and nursing homes, to put in place measures to combat the haze. These include the use of air purifiers, fans and portable air coolers. 

NEA and MOH, which have been working with retailers since April, pushed out additional stocks of N95 to shops last Friday and on Sunday. NEA said there are sufficient stocks of the mask in the warehouses and government stockpiles. 

Meanwhile, the Early Childhood Development Agency requires pre-schools to monitor air quality levels and comply with health advisories. All pre-schools also have at least one air-conditioned room with an air purifier to temporarily accommodate children who might become unwell or develop respiratory problems. Outdoor activities will be minimised when the air quality is in the unhealthy range.

All classrooms in primary and secondary schools, Education Ministry kindergartens and special education schools have been equipped with air purifiers. 

The Ministry of Manpower has reminded employers to reduce prolonged or strenuous work for healthy employees, and minimise prolonged or strenuous outdoor work for elderly or pregnant employees, if the 24-hour PSI is in the unhealthy range. 

In a separate news release on Tuesday, the Singapore Contractors Association said it is advising construction firms to monitor the haze condition and take steps, such as conducting risk assessment on outdoor work, should the haze worsen.

NEA said that the Singapore Armed Forces and the Home Team departments under the Ministry of Home Affairs are “calibrating the training and outdoor activities of their personnel according to the air quality".

“All units stand ready to keep Singapore safe and secure," it added.

 
 

The Land Transport Authority is using the Expressway Monitoring Advisory System electronic signboards to remind motorists to drive with care and switch on headlights when visibility is low. 

The Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth has reminded organisers of sports activities to monitor the air quality and follow health advisories. While outdoor and indoor sports facilities might remain open, members of the public are advised to take necessary precautions to ensure personal safety.

The People’s Association is keeping air-conditioned rooms in the Residents’ Committee centres and community clubs open for those who want to seek respite from the haze, if the 24-hour PSI readings cross into the "very unhealthy" range (201 to 300).

Correction note: This article has been edited for clarity.