PUTRAJAYA — The cabinet decided yesterday to make public the Air Pollutant Index (API) as the haze situation worsened, prompting a decision to close 413 schools in Kuala Lumpur, Klang and Kuala Selangor for two days.
The decision to close the schools was made by the respective education departments followed numerous calls from parents to the schools which, in turn, sought advice from the departments.
But it is not known whether the decision was properly conveyed to the parents. Many headmasters are also confused about closing on their own, as there is no written directive.
Yesterday, at a joint press conference chaired by Health Minister Datuk Dr Chua Soi Lek and Natural Resources and Environment Minister Datuk Seri Adenan Satem at the Health Ministry, Adenan said the API will be released daily, unless the situation demands otherwise.
“The cabinet has also instructed Datuk Peter Chin (the plantation industries and commodities minister) and I to go to Jakarta as soon as possible to discuss how best to solve the haze problem,” Adenan said.
However, Malaysia has not reached a stage of emergency, which will not be declared in any part of the country unless the API hits more than 500 (hazardous level).
“The situation is not getting any better … it is getting worse according to the API readings and if it reaches more than 500, we might have to declare emergency status,” said Adenan.
Asked about the shift in policy in revealing the API, he said “the public needs to know”.
Asked if the smog content will also be made public, he said: “Wherever it is required, it will be revealed, and if we have details, we will tell you.”
Adenan and Chinwill discuss with their Indonesian counterparts how Malaysia can help out in response to the country’s request for assistance from Asean countries.
Asked about the ministry’s Haze Action Plan, Adenan said: “We do have some plan but we cannot elaborate at this time.”
Chua said Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi “has made it clear to be very transparent on the API but the media should not speculate”.
“If the API reaches 500, we will let you know,” he said.
Chua said the hazy conditions were confined to pocketed areas within the Klang Valley, Port Klang, Shah Alam and Putrajaya.
“It is unfortunate that the areas are caught in the jurisdiction of the south westerly winds from Sumatra,” he said.
“The situation has a wide implication on tourism and we should not convey the message that the whole country is blanketed by the hazy conditions.”
Chua said public health is directly related to the air quality.
He said the high risk group included young children, school-going children, old people, those with chronic diseases like asthma and allergy and bronchitis, people working outdoors and smokers.
He said the ministry has seven clinics – in Putrajaya, Gombak, Port Klang, Petaling, Kajang, Ampangan in Seremban and Nilai – monitoring the impact of the haze. He said there has been a rise in the number of cases related to haze.
“Five out of the seven clinics saw a rise in asthmatic cases from 8.3% to 150% while for Upper Respiratory Tract Infection (URTI) like runny nose, sore throat, cough, itchy nose and throats, four saw a rise of up to 57%.
“Four saw a rise of 20% in conjunctivitis to 66% and all this was recorded within the past three days,” he added.
The minister advised the public to cut down on outdoor activities and wear masks if they venture outdoors.
In this context, the Department of Environment (DOE) and the ministry will advise schools when to or not to close – currently the reading should exceed API reading of 400.
Chua said the Ministry has started disseminating information on what to do and what not to do. He also said there is sufficient medication and workforce to handle the situation.