PM Lee sets up ministerial committee to tackle haze crisis
Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said on Thursday afternoon that there was "no hard line" for when a stop-work order should be issued and that the decision to stop work would also depend on what kind of work it was.
According to local newspaper TODAY, Lee acknowledged that while the haze was "not a new problem for Singapore and Malaysia, this episode is more serious than in recent years".
The haze situation in Singapore deteriorated to its worst level on Thursday when the three-hour Pollutant Standards Index (PSI) hit an all-time high of 371, well into the “hazardous” level of over 300. The haze is caused by peat fires in Indonesia, some of which are started deliberated to clear land for cultivation.
Lee added that daily press briefings will be held to update the public on the haze situation, which is expected to last "easily for a few weeks or longer."
Speaking at a press conference at the Istana, the prime minister, together with Environment Minister Vivian Balakrishnan, revealed a slew of measures to be undertaken in tackling Singapore's haze crisis.
He announced that a special scheme providing financial assistance to those suffering from haze-related illnesses will be implemented by the Ministry of Health, which is also working to ensure that there will enough N95 masks for protection.
This scheme will come under an "Inter-Ministerial Committee" set up to focus on protecting public health and safety as well as to co-operate with Indonesia in handling the fallout from the haze. It will be led by Minister Ng Eng Hen.
In response to concerns and speculation over claims that the National Environment Agency's 3-hourly average PSI is inaccurate, Lee said that "we don't play those kinds of games in Singapore", while Dr Balakrishnan assured the press that there was "complete transparency" in the PSI data and cautioned that it needed to be "analysed appropriately".
When asked for the government's reaction to comments from an Indonesian ministers comments that Singapore is "acting like a child" over the haze issue, Lee said that it was "not fruitful" to respond.
According to TODAY, the prime minister said that he had written to Indonesian President Yudhoyono to raise SIngapore's concerns as well as to extend help. He also said that the government would take action against any Singapore company found to be responsibly for the slash-and-burn fires in Sumatra.
Lee also sought to assure Singaporeans on social media, tweeting from his official Twitter account that he asks "Singaporeans to remain calm and look out for one another. I'm confident we can manage this if we stay united and work together."
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