Singapore convenes Haze Task Force, sets out advisories to manage haze impact

Hazy conditions at Marina Bay in Singapore. (PHOTO: Dhany Osman/Yahoo News Singapore)
Hazy conditions at Marina Bay in Singapore. (PHOTO: Dhany Osman/Yahoo News Singapore)

SINGAPORE — Singapore has convened a Haze Task Force (HTF), comprising 28 government agencies and led by the National Environment Agency (NEA), to manage the impact of the haze on the public.

In a media statement released on Tuesday (17 September), the NEA said that, since the 24-hour Pollutant Standards Index (PSI) in Singapore first entered the Unhealthy range on 14 September, the task force’s member agencies have put in action plans that allow tiered responses depending on the intensity of the haze.

General health advisory

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.

The public are advised to drink plenty of water to stay hydrated. 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.

The Ministry of Health (MOH) has reminded healthcare institutions to put in place haze preparedness measures and prepare for any increase in the number of cases of haze-related conditions.

These measures include using air purifiers and fans, and reducing ambient temperature by deploying portable air coolers where appropriate.

Making N95 masks available

NEA and MOH have been working with retailers since April, and have stepped up efforts from early September, to ensure stocks of N95 masks are made available in retail shops. Additional stocks have been pushed out to retail shops on 13 September and 15 September.

N95 masks are not required for short exposure, like commuting from home to school or work, or in an indoor environment. People who have to be outdoors for several hours may reduce exposure by wearing a N95 mask. Vulnerable persons should consult their doctors as to whether they should use the N95 mask.

NEA and MOH will closely monitor the availability of masks to the public. They assure the public that there are sufficient stocks in the warehouses and government stockpiles.

Advice for pre-schools and schools

Pre-schools should minimise outdoor activities when the air quality is in the Unhealthy range, and avoid strenuous indoor physical exercise and activities for children. These should be replaced with other indoor activities. Children with underlying chronic heart and lung conditions should not participate in physical exercise.

The Early Childhood Development Agency (ECDA) has 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.

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

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. Teachers will also be on the lookout for students who are unwell or have pre-existing lung or heart conditions.

As children respond differently to haze, parents should ensure their children have their medication, such as inhalers for asthma, with them. They should also take their children to seek medical attention if they are unwell and ensure that their children take their medication to school or arrange for alternative care arrangements to care for them at home.

For more information on schools’ haze management plans, visit here.

Advice for Workplaces

The Ministry of Manpower (MOM) reminds employers to follow MOM’s haze guidelines and tripartite advisories, and 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, 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.

Safeguarding Singapore

The Singapore Armed Forces and the Home Team Departments under the Ministry of Home Affairs are calibrating the training and outdoor activities of their personnel according to the air quality. All units remain ready to keep Singapore safe and secure.

Advice for Motorists

The LTA has advised motorists to drive with care and switch on headlights when visibility is low through the Expressway Advisory Monitoring System (EMAS) electronic signboards.

Sporting Activities

The Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth has advised all participants and organisers of sports activities to monitor the air quality and follow the corresponding health advisories.

Event organisers should conduct their own risk management with due consideration of the health advisory when deciding whether to proceed with sports activities.

While outdoor and indoor sports facilities may remain open, the public is advised to take necessary precautions to ensure personal safety.

Community Activities

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

Air-conditioned rooms in the Residents’ Committee Centres, and Community Clubs will be on stand-by for members of the public who want to seek respite from the haze, should the 1-hour PM2.5 concentration readings cross into Band III (High).

The HTF will continue to monitor the situation closely. HTF agencies will provide further advisories should the haze situation deteriorate.

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