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Over S$3.3 million disbursed under haze scheme last year

SINGAPORE — More than S$3.3 million were paid out under the haze subsidy scheme last year – helping over 77,000 haze-related attendances GP clinics and polyclinics - due to the trans-boundary haze.

People wearing masks during the haze in Singapore last year. TODAY file photo

People wearing masks during the haze in Singapore last year. TODAY file photo

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SINGAPORE — More than S$3.3 million were paid out under the haze subsidy scheme last year – helping over  77,000 haze-related attendances GP clinics and polyclinics - due to the trans-boundary haze.

This was revealed by Minister of State (Health) Lam Pin Min in Parliament today in response to a question filed by Non-Constituency Member of Parliament Leon Perera, who asked the ministry whether it can provide data on the long-term impact of children’s exposure to haze in terms of the likelihood of developing respiratory illnesses, and the estimated healthcare cost of this impact.

In 2013 - the previous time the scheme kicked in – almost S$500,000 was provided for more than 17,000 haze-related attendances.

Dr Lam said that it would be difficult to ascertain the direct long-term health effects due to the episodic exposure to haze, as there could be many contributing factors to the long-term health outcome. Nevertheless, the short-term effects of haze on school-going children include irritation of the eyes, nose and throat.  Short term exposure for individuals with pre-existing chronic heart or lung diseases may also trigger an episode or exacerbate the underlying diseases, such as an asthma attack.

Apart from widely-publicised health advisories, the Ministry of Health have put in place several measures to protect and enhance the health and well-being of Singaporeans. For example, the ministry has worked with community partners to distribute care packs and masks to the needy, ensure there are adequate supplies of protective masks in the market, educate the public and raise awareness of the health effects of the haze.

Dr Lam said the ministry has also welcomed the efforts by ST Dynamics to develop N95-equivalent masks that can fit children’s face, and has school continuity plans in place to take appropriate haze management measures. On Wednesday, the Ministry of Education also outlined its plan to provide air purifiers to all primary and secondary schools.

“Most importantly, we want to prevent haze from occurring in the first place. To this end, Singapore is working closely with neighbouring countries to tackle the haze issue, which is largely caused by irresponsible business practices,” Dr Lam added. 

Follow our live blog of Parliament proceedings here

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