1. We are all affected by the haze. Today I want to share how we will address this problem and explain what Singaporeans can do to protect themselves and their families.
2. Haze is not a new problem for Singapore and Malaysia, but this episode is more serious than in recent years. This afternoon the 3-hourly PSI reached 371, a new high. The 24-hour PSI (at 2pm), which our health advisories are based on, was in the range of 175-207 – in the Unhealthy to Very Unhealthy range. We expect the wind and weather conditions to stay the same over the next few days, and therefore the haze to persist.
3. We know the source of the problem – illegal burning by errant companies in Sumatra. We are actively engaging the Indonesian government to solve the problem. Ministers Shanmugam and Vivian have been in contact with their Indonesian counterparts. The CEO of the National Environment Agency Andrew Tan is in Jakarta today for an emergency meeting with the Indonesian officials. I have written to Indonesian President Yudhoyono to register our serious concerns and reiterate our offer to help.
4. Singapore has provided satellite hotspot data and imagery to the Indonesian authorities to help them to identify the companies which are responsible. Some Indonesian officials have suggested that these errant companies may be linked to Singapore and Malaysia. We have requested them to provide us any evidence they may have on this. If any Singapore companies or companies which are present in Singapore are involved, we will take this up with them.
5. My priority is to protect the health and safety of Singaporeans, especially vulnerable groups such as the young and elderly, and those with heart or lung diseases. We can expect a higher incidence of respiratory diseases like asthma or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Our MOH doctors, polyclinics and hospitals are on alert and ready to treat the patients. If you fall ill, please see your doctor or GP promptly.
6. If you need any financial help with your medical expenses, we will make sure it is available. MOH will implement a special scheme where young Singaporeans aged 18 and below, elderly Singaporeans aged 65 and above, CHAS card holders, PA and Medical Fee Exemption Card holders who suffer from respiratory problems and conjunctivitis because of the haze can see their GPs, pay $10, and MOH will settle the rest of the GP’s bill. Click Here for More Details
7. Most of us who are in good health will be fine if we take basic precautions, such as limiting outdoor activities, and staying indoors where possible, depending on how bad the haze is. Starting later today, the Government will hold a daily press briefing to update Singaporeans of the haze situation and recommend protective measures for the day ahead. You can also refer to NEA’s website for the guidelines.
8. Our ministries and agencies are prepared. The Haze Task Force has met several times to coordinate agencies’ plans. The Crisis Management Group for Haze has also been convened.
9. We cannot tell how the haze problem will develop. It can easily last for several weeks, and quite possibly longer until the dry season ends in Sumatra. We will need to adapt our response to suit the changing situation, and protect ourselves in practical and sustainable ways. To oversee the overall national effort, I have set up a Haze Inter-Ministerial Committee (HIMC) chaired by Minister Ng Eng Hen, with representatives from MEWR, MFA, MCI, MOH, MSF, MOE and MOM.
10. The Ministerial Committee will focus on protecting public health and safety, working with the Indonesians to mitigate the haze at source, and maintaining economic and social resilience. It will review our guidelines for protecting vulnerable groups; ensure that society and businesses, especially essential services, continue to operate; and issue clear guidelines on the protective measures at each PSI threshold.
11. I ask Singaporeans to remain calm and look out for one another. Watch out for your neighbours, especially older Singaporeans and young kids. If any of them have respiratory problems, bring them to a clinic immediately. Contact your RCs and MPs if you have any questions. I am confident we can manage this problem, and get through if we stay united and work together.