Schools shut today but work goes on as haze worsens
Schools shut, but work goes on as 24-hour PSI readings move into 'very unhealthy' range. Manpower Minister says: Don't compromise on health and safety.
No school today.
As the haze worsens, going from the unhealthy range to possibly hazardous levels, Education Minister Heng Swee Keat said the decision was made as a precaution.
This would be the first time Singapore is shutting its primary and secondary schools because of the haze.
The decision came after hazy conditions in Singapore worsened yesterday.
Denser haze from Sumatra was blown in by the prevailing southerly winds and at 6pm yesterday, the 24-hour Pollutant Standards Index (PSI) was between 204 and 248, moving entirely into the "very unhealthy" range for the first time.
Mr Heng revealed that about 100 students sitting for the GCE O-level Music and Higher Music practical examination, originally scheduled for today, will have their exams rescheduled to Tuesday.
They have been notified by schools, and private candidates by examination boards.
The Minister assured parents that those unable to make alternative arrangements for their children can continue to send them to school as teachers will be there and will find suitable facilities such as libraries and enclosed spaces for the children.
He also said that school-based student care centres, childcare and kindergartens will remain open to "provide care arrangements for children".
Also guided by the Ministry of Education's (MOE) advisory, all full-time madrasahs and mosque kindergartens have suspended lessons today.
But they remain open so that parents can send their children there to be supervised by teachers.
Housewife Goh Ai Ling, 47, is glad MOE had made the decision to shut schools.
"I just feel bad for the teachers who still need to be in school. My daughter has already been given homework via e-mail, while my son has exams, but I guess it will be postponed," she said.
ADULTS NOT AFFECTED
But working adults will not be affected by the closure.
Manpower Minister Lim Swee Say said there would not be a national shutdown of workplaces, but he cautioned that while businesses should carry on as normal as possible, they should not compromise the health and safety of workers.
"Individual employers will have to continue to update their risk assessment and pay particular attention to work which are strenuous and that involves prolonged outdoor work.
"At the same time, they should pay special attention to workers, especially the elderly, pregnant women as well as workers with heart and lung conditions," Mr Lim said.
Citing those working in construction, Mr Lim said the concern would not only be on health but also their safety.
"The haze will affect visibility and that in turn becomes another factor affecting safety.
"That's why the Ministry of Manpower will be working closely with the various sectors to ensure that the workers are not put at risk," he said.
Heeding this and not wanting to put their delivery boys in jeopardy, fast-food joints McDonald's, KFC and Pizza Hut suspended their service last evening due to bad visibility.
Individual employers will have to continue to update their risk assessment and pay particular attention to work which are strenuous and that involves prolonged outdoor work. At the same time, they should pay special attention to workers, especially the elderly, pregnant women as well as workers with heart and lung conditions.
- Manpower Minister Lim Swee Say reminding employers not to compromise the health and safety of workers
By the numbers 229-284
The 24-hour PSI reading at 1am.
Change in wind direction brought more haze to S'pore
Explaining the worsening of the haze, Minister for Environment and Water Resources Vivian Balakrishnan said the cause for the change of wind direction since Wednesday was the low pressure, which was in turn caused by a tropical storm in the western Pacific, "somewhere to the east of the Philippines".
"That changed the configuration of the haze and this is the situation we have as of today," said Dr Balakrishnan at a media briefing yesterday.
"The denser part of the haze is slightly to the south of Singapore and because the winds continue to blow from the south and south-west direction, the denser clouds are encroaching into Singapore, causing this volatile and progressively worsening condition."
He said the haze is expected to last till November, due to the El Nino dry season. "The situation is very dynamic and volatile and we'll be making plans accordingly."
The 24-hour PSI rose since 6am yesterday, according to the National Environment Agency (NEA). The three-hour PSI went past the 300-mark at 7pm, hitting 313 and 316 two hours later. At midnight, it was at 319.
Despite the haze, Muslims here marked Hari Raya Haji yesterday with prayer and korban.
STRUGGLE: Miss Fatin Nabilah Awang's sister Natasha (left) had trouble breathing because of her asthma.
-PHOTO COURTESY OF FATIN NABILAH AWANG
For student Fatin Nabilah Awang, 21, the family had to rush to the shop to get a mask for her sister Natasha, 17, before visiting their grandmother.
"We didn't think the PSI would actually reach this level. My younger sister had a hard time because she has asthma and it is really affecting her breathing," said Miss Nabilah.
"It was a good thing my dad drove, so we just scrambled into the car to avoid the haze."
Like Miss Nabilah, the haze did not dampen Nanyang Technological University (NTU) undergrad Zulhaqem Zulkifli's spirits.
"It just made it a little harder to move around from place to place," said the 22-year-old.
Fellow NTU undergrad Mustaqim Omar, 21, also said the haze did not affect him as he was mostly indoors, visiting relatives.
"Anyway, we all expected the haze since it has been ongoing for the past few weeks," he said.
Posting on his facebook wall, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong urged Singaporeans to drink plenty of water, avoid going outdoors and look out for neighbours and friends.
He said Singapore has offered Indonesia "our help to put out the fires, and asked them to share with us the identity of companies responsible for causing the haze".
The People's association will be distributing N95 masks free to eligible Singaporeans at all 108 community centres islandwide from 10am today. Each eligible recipient will be given two masks, to last for a week.
Eligible singaporeans include:
- All holders of Ministry of health's community health assist scheme (Chas) Blue card
- All Pioneer Generation Card Holders
- All ComCare clients above 62 years old
- ComCare clients identified as having longer term medical issues, regardless of age
- All singaporean citizens who meet the Chas Blue card criterion of having less than $1,100 Household Per-Capita Income