Health Ministry: Haze causing a spike in respiratory diseases

A general view of Putrajaya shrouded in haze September 16, 2019. — Bernama pic
A general view of Putrajaya shrouded in haze September 16, 2019. — Bernama pic

KUALA LUMPUR, Sept 20 — The continuous haze situation in the country has resulted in a jump in the number of respiratory problems in affected areas.

Monitoring by the Health Ministry at 31 sentinel clinics found soaring cases of asthma and conjunctivitis.

Asthma cases rose 15.8 per cent from 1,187 to 1,375 cases from June 30 to September 7 2019 compared to September 8 to 14.

Similarly, there was a 24.9 per cent increase in conjunctivitis during the same period from 253 to 317 cases while upper respiratory tract infection (URTI) showed a fall of 17.3 per cent from 7,551 to 6,245 cases.

Based on the Malaysia Air Pollutant Index Management System (APIMS) as at 7pm tonight, Sri Aman in Sarawak was the only area with an API reading of 405 which is hazardous, falling from 415 recorded at noon today.    

The drastic increase in API reading at Sri Aman was due to smoke brought in by winds from Kalimantan, Indonesia where hotspots were detected.

Sarawak Department of Environment acting director, Ahmad Saifful Salihin said the location in Sri Aman which has about 100,000 residents is nearest to the neighbouring country, resulting in the town being very badly affected.

A State Education Department statement said the situation caused 1,037 schools in 20 districts affected by haze in Sarawak to be closed today comprising 136 secondary schools and 901 primary schools involving 325,391 students.

The Army Eastern Field Command commander Datuk Zamrose Mohd Zain said the army was prepared to assist in operation to fight peat and forest fires in Sri Aman if there was a special instruction.

He said so far, the army has not received any orders and is prepared to mobilise its members upon getting the green light.

Meanwhile,the Education Ministry will be implementing teaching and learning sessions (PdP) online if the closure of schools continues due to the worsening haze situation.

Deputy Education Minister Teo Nie Ching said the ministry is monitoring the situation closely especially with the coming written Form Three Assessment (PT3) examination scheduled to start from Sept 30.

Teachers have also been advised to give lessons to pupils who are on holiday now via Google Classroom as an optional learning platform as schools are closed, she said. — Bernama

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