Most schools in Malaysia have shut for two days amid health concerns caused by the ongoing thick haze shrouding large parts of Southeast Asia.
Education Minister Datuk Seri Mahdzir Khalid said the schools would be closed on Monday and Tuesday, though some schools in outlying areas not affected by the haze may remain open.
“For Kelantan, Sabah and Sarawak, the Education Ministry will monitor the haze hourly before deciding on the need to close schools,” he said Sunday.
At least five areas in Malaysia on Sunday recorded “very unhealthy” levels of air pollution, with one reporting “hazardous” levels.
One of Malaysia’s biggest marathons, Standard Chartered Kuala Lumpur Marathon, was cancelled Sunday due to fears for the health of the some 30,000 runners taking part.
Haze resulting from forests being burned to clear land for farming and plantations in Indonesia’s peat-rich provinces on Sumatra and Kalimantan has become an annual problem for the region over the past two decades. This year the haze has been particularly bad, disrupting life in Malaysia, Singapore and Indonesia for weeks.
Singapore has intermittently been closing schools and cancelling outdoor events. Last month there were doubts whether one of the biggest events on the city-state’s sporting calendar, the Singapore Grand Prix, would be able to go ahead.
The haze over the region continued to worsen over the weekend, despite an order last week from Indonesian President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo to accelerate efforts to extinguish forest fires.
The haze spread as far as the southern provinces of Thailand over the weekend, where pollution levels remained within healthy limits.