Haze update: MPs meet residents to allay concerns over haze

They give out masks to needy; some open air-conditioned centres overnight

Cabinet ministers and MPs are fanning out across Singapore over the weekend in a coordinated effort to distribute face masks to the needy and address residents' concerns on the haze.

Some MPs have also extended the opening hours of common areas, like community centres, in their estates for those who wish to spend the night in air-conditioned comfort.

Among the political leaders on the ground yesterday was Acting Minister for Social and Family Development Chan Chun Sing, who visited several homes at a block of rental flats in Holland Close, part of the Tanjong Pagar GRC, of which he is an MP.

Some 120 grassroots leaders and volunteers also visited 150 low-income families there to hand out the masks.

They are among 4,000 grassroots leaders that have volunteered for the islandwide exercise.

Today, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, Foreign and Law Minister K. Shanmugam and other ministers will be distributing masks to residents in their respective constituencies.

The pool of N95 maskscomes from the one million stockpile announced on Friday for 200,000 of the poorest households and vulnerable Singaporeans.

Mr Chan told The Sunday Times that the effort was "not just a mask distribution exercise". It also allowed the ministers and grassroots leaders to have direct contact with residents to "provide information to them, answer their questions and address their concerns".

This community outreach will be vital should the haze stretch on, he added.

On the sidelines of a Mendaki event, Minister for Communications and Information Yaacob Ibrahim said the intent was to keep Singaporeans informed as there was "too much misinformation circulating around about the haze".

For instance, he said, N95 masks should be used only outdoors, and are not needed indoors or in a car.

From today, the one million masks earmarked for the 200,000 low-income households are expected to be delivered by the Singapore Armed Forces to all constituencies, including opposition-held ones. Each constituency will get about 10,000 masks.

Those on public assistance or with per capita income of $900 and below will get the free masks, with each family getting four masks. They can collect them from the 107 community centres from today.

Health Minister Gan Kim Yong also said that more than two million masks were distributed to pharmacies yesterday.

He added that the manpower and trade and industry ministries are identifying companies which have more outdoor workers, and will ensure that these workers get masks so they can continue their work.

Public assistance recipient Hoong Mary was among those who received a free mask yesterday.

The 73-year-old said: "The burning smell spoils my appetite, so I am glad the Government is doing something."

Meanwhile, MPs like Ms Penny Low (Pasir Ris-Punggol GRC), Mr Lim Biow Chuan (Mountbatten) and Ms Foo Mee Har (West Coast GRC) are opening air-conditioned areas in community clubs and residents' committee centres at void decks.

This is to allow residents without air-conditioners in their homes to stay in these facilities overnight or during the day.

This will lessen residents' hardship and inconvenience, Mr Lim said, adding: "We need to look after them."


Additional reporting by Jermyn Chow and Lim Yan Liang