'Robust action plans' in place to mitigate haze impact: NEA

'Robust action plans' in place to mitigate haze impact: NEA

Government agencies in Singapore have put in place "robust action plans" to minimise and manage the impact of haze on the public, the National Environment Agency (NEA) said on Tuesday (Sep 17). Junn Loh reports.

SINGAPORE: Government agencies in Singapore have put in place "robust action plans" to minimise and manage the impact of haze on the public, the National Environment Agency (NEA) said on Tuesday (Sep 17) in a media release. 

The plans by the Government's Haze Task Force, comprising 28 government agencies and led by NEA, allow "tiered responses depending on the intensity of haze which is based on the 24-hour Pollutants Standard Index (PSI) readings", NEA added.

Providing details on the action plans and advisories in place, NEA said the agencies have rolled them out since the PSI in the west of Singapore entered the "Unhealthy" range on Sep 14.

According to NEA, PSI reading of 50 and below denote “good” air quality, “moderate” for 51-100 , “unhealthy” for 101-200, "very unhealthy" for 201-300 and "hazardous" above 300. 

READ: Haze hits unhealthy levels in Singapore as PSI exceeds 100 for the first time in 3 years

READ: Indonesia arrests nearly 200 over raging forest fires

PRE-SCHOOLS AND SCHOOLS

Pre-school operators have been required to monitor the air quality levels and comply with health advisories by the Early Childhood Development Agency (ECDA).

They have been advised to minimise outdoor activities when the air quality is in the Unhealthy range, and avoid strenuous indoor physical exercise and activities for children, NEA said.

Children with underlying chronic heart and lung conditions should not participate in physical exercise, NEA added.

READ: Cutting through the haze: When do you need an N95 mask?

ECDA has also reminded pre-schools to ensure that there is at least one air-conditioned room with an air purifier to temporarily accommodate children who may become unwell or develop respiratory problems, NEA added.

READ: MOE will consider closing schools when air quality forecast enters ‘hazardous’ level

The haze seen from an HDB block in Chinatown on Sep 14, 2019
The haze seen from an HDB block in Chinatown on Sep 14, 2019. (Photo: Low Zoey)

"Should any child fall sick or exhibit respiratory problems, the school should inform the parents and seek immediate medical attention for the child," NEA said.

Schools are also ready to respond and take appropriate haze management measures taking guidance from the Ministry of Health’s (MOH) advisory, NEA added.

"The Ministry of Education (MOE) and schools have in place a school continuity plan to ensure the well-being of students and staff during a haze situation."

All classrooms of primary and secondary schools, MOE Kindergartens and Special Education schools have been equipped with air purifiers to enhance the well-being of students during a haze situation, according to NEA.

On Sunday, MOE said it will consider closing schools when the air quality forecast enters the "hazardous" level.

It added that if school closures coincided with national examinations such as the PSLE, the affected examination papers would be rescheduled and the examination period extended.

HEALTHCARE INSTITUTIONS

Healthcare institutions have been reminded by MOH to put in place haze preparedness measures and be ready for any increase in the number of haze-related cases.

The measures include using air purifiers, fans and portable air coolers, NEA said, adding that the healthcare institutions are also monitoring patients closely for possible health effects of the haze.

NEA and MOH have also been working with retailers since April 2019 to ensure stocks of N95 masks are made available, with additional stocks pushed out to retail shops on Sep 13 and Sep 15, according to the agency.

"Our public healthcare institutions are also monitoring patients closely for possible health effects of the haze and will institute appropriate medical intervention where necessary," NEA said.

WORKPLACES

The Ministry of Manpower (MOM) has also reminded employers to follow its haze guidelines and tripartite advisories.

MOM advised employers to take the necessary measures to prepare their companies and workforces to minimise or mitigate the effects of the haze. 

In the event that the 24-hour PSI reaches the unhealthy range, NEA said the measures include:

  • Reducing prolonged or strenuous work for healthy employees
  • Minimising prolonged or strenuous outdoor work for elderly or pregnant employees
  • Avoiding prolonged or strenuous outdoor work for employees with chronic lung or heart disease
  • Taking risk mitigating measures such as use of mechanical aids, job rotation, instituting indoor rest breaks and ensuring adequate hydration etc.

haze singapore flyer sep 13
A blanket of haze seen near the Singapore Flyer on Sep 13, 2019. (Photo: Try Sutrisno Foo)

Among other measures, training and outdoor activities are also being calibrated by the Singapore Armed Force and the Home Team Departments according to the air quality.

Motorists have also been advised by the Land Transport Authority (LTA) to drive with care and switch on headlights when visibility is low. This is in addition to haze mitigation measures that have been implemented for LTA and public transport employees.

Organisations conducting sports and community activities have been advised to conduct their own risk management based on the health advisories to determine whether to go ahead with the events.

While outdoor and indoor sports facilities may remain open, members of public are advised to take necessary precautions to ensure personal safety, NEA said.

"Community activities organised by the People’s Association and its grassroots organisations will be guided by the 24-hour PSI forecast issued by NEA and the accompanying health advisory," NEA added.

In general, NEA said the health impact of haze is dependent on individuals’ health status, the PSI level, and the duration and intensity of outdoor activity. 

"Reducing outdoor activities and physical exertion can help limit the ill effects from haze exposure. Singaporeans are advised to drink plenty of water to stay hydrated, and those with chronic heart and lung conditions should ensure that medications are on hand and readily available."

Vulnerable persons, especially the elderly, pregnant women, children, and those with chronic heart and lung conditions, who develop symptoms or feel unwell, should seek medical attention promptly, NEA added.

The Government's Haze Task Force will continue to monitor the situation closely and provide further advisories if the haze situation deteriorates, the agency said.

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Source: CNA/mn

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