Thailand — The Public Health Ministry is handing out 50,000 face masks to residents of haze-shrouded northern provinces.
Public Health Minister Witthaya Buranasiri on Sunday said the face masks had been distributed to eight provinces where particulate matter levels of up to 10 micrometers in diameter (PM10) were found to be beyond acceptable standards. They are Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai, Lampang, Lamphun, Mae Hong Son, Phrae, Nan and Phayao.
All hospitals under the Health Ministry have been ordered to provide full medical care to people affected by the widespread haze pullution caused by forest fires and traditional slash-and-burn farming.
The ministry was assessing the situation and drawing up plans to help people in the haze-hit areas, Mr Witthaya said.
Sixty one hospitals in the haze-affected provinces are treating 5,054 patients in four illness groups – heart, blood vessels, respiratory and eye diseases – according to a report released by the Department of Disease Control.
However, health experts could not yet conclude or confirm that all the patients were sickened by the dust haze, the public health minister said.