Singapore’s air pollution problem continued to deteriorate Friday, reaching new record highs amid rising fears that the smog could persist for weeks.
The 3-hour PSI reading – the measurement used to measure air pollution – stood at 401 at noon Friday, up from the record high of 371 recorded Thursday. Anything above 400 is considered “very hazardous”. According to Wikipedia: “PSI levels above 400 may be life-threatening to ill and elderly persons. Healthy people may experience adverse symptoms that affect normal activity.”
Added to the extremely unhealthy and unpleasant conditions is the growing realisation among Singaporeans that there will be no quick fix for the haze crisis. Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong warned Thursday that the smog could persist for weeks, or even months, if current weather patterns continue.
Pollution from fires on nearby Sumatra, Indonesia began to descend on Singapore one week ago, with the situation deteorating steadily since.
On Thursday, a Singapore delegation , led by the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the National Environment Agency (NEA), Mr Andrew Tan, traveled to Jakarta for an emergency meeting with Indonesian officials.
After the meeting, Tan said: “We had a frank and useful exchange of views where we conveyed the deep concerns of the public over the deteriorating haze situation. Both sides recognised that the situation was serious and needed urgent attention. We urged Indonesia to take decisive actions to stop the fires and prevent further burning with the onset of the dry season.”
In truth, the meeting is likely to have done little to alleviate the immediate problem. Indeed, some Indonesian politicians have spoken out against the pressure being exerted by Singapore. The Indonesian minister leading the fire containment efforts, Agung Laksono, said Thursday that Singapore was “childish” for pressing Jakarta “as if we’re not doing anything,” according to the Wall Street Journal.
The Singapore National Environment Agency advised Singaporeans, especially the elderly, children and people with respiratory problems, to avoid prolonged exposure outdoors. The Ministry of Health has told hospitals to prepare for an anticipated increase in the number of cases of asthma, bronchitis and conjunctivitis. Workplaces have begun issuing masks for workers, as hospitals also reported a rise in patients – mainly middle-aged adults and seniors – with asthma and breathing-related disorders.
Singaporeans have taken to social media sites to vent about the pollution with hundreds of haze images posted on Instagram and a dedicated #sghaze hashtag trending on Twitter.
The problem has also spread to neighbouring Malaysia, which closed 200 schools Thursday and banned open burning in some areas. Prime Minister Najib Razak used his Twitter account to warn against outdoor activities and to recommend drinking plenty of water, adding that the haze was expected to worsen.