Haze in Singapore expected to worsen
The haze that enveloped Singapore the past week worsened yesterday, and the air quality looks set to deteriorate further today, going by national forecasts.
This prospect comes amid the cancellation of flights and more people falling ill.
As workers headed to work and students to school yesterday, the one-hour PM2.5 readings at 6am - 65-100 micrograms per cubic m - breached the midway point of the elevated band.
By 8pm, they had risen to 75-118 micrograms per cubic m.
The PM2.5 concentration, which the National Environment Agency (NEA) said is a better indicator of current air quality, measures the concentration of tiny particles less than 2.5 micrometres in diameter.
The 24-hour Pollutant Standards Index (PSI) also got worse yesterday, from 97-113 in the "moderate" to "unhealthy" band at 6am, to 114-135 in the "unhealthy" band at 8pm.
NEA explained yesterday that the haze continues to be blown in from southern Sumatra by prevailing winds and that hazy conditions are expected to persist.
In the next 24 hours, PM2.5 readings are forecast to be between the normal and elevated bands, while the PSI is expected to be between the high end of the "moderate" and low end of the "unhealthy" ranges.
But if more haze from Sumatra is blown in, air quality could enter the middle of the "unhealthy" range.
The haze has affected people's health. Parkway Shenton has been treating more patients who are stricken with haze-related ailments. The most common conditions are itchy eyes, throat discomfort and asthmatic problems.
Businesses have also been affected, with some outdoor eateries feeling the pinch as customers stay away.
Alfresco restaurants and open-air hawker stalls in the Central Business District that The Straits Times spoke to yesterday said they have seen a 20 per cent drop in lunch and dinner crowds in the past few days.
Mr Syahrul Jaffar, 36, assistant manager at restaurant OverEasy in Fullerton Road, said the effects of the haze could already be seen over the weekend when several diners cancelled their reservations because of high PSI readings.
The restaurant, which can seat about 350 customers, has a waterside view of Marina Bay and about three-quarters of its seating are located outdoors.
"The last couple of days, we have seen about 20 per cent fewer customers than usual because of the haze," he said, adding that staff started wearing face masks last Friday.
Over at Amoy Street Food Centre, stall owners also reported a 20 per cent drop in the number of customers this week.
On Tuesday, NEA said a government task force that it leads is ready to tackle the impact of haze. The agencies in this task force include the Health, Education and Manpower ministries.
They have reminded healthcare institutions, schools and employers to take anti-haze measures such as having air purifiers and reducing outdoor activities should the air quality worsen. - ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY SALMA KHALIK AND CLEMENT YONG
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