Posts tagged ‘Singapore’
The new Pollutant Standards Index, which was announced two weeks ago, will incorporate PM2.5 in its reading, a sixth pollutant parameter.
SINGAPORE: The government will implement the new air quality reporting system on April 1, a month earlier than planned.
Environment and Water Resources Minister Vivian Balakrishnan said this is because the current improvement in air quality brought on by the rain could be temporary.
The new Pollutant Standards Index (PSI), which was announced two weeks ago, will incorporate a sixth pollutant parameter, PM2.5 in its reading.
The heavy rains over the past week have been a welcome relief for Singapore which had just gone through one of the most severe dry spells it has ever seen.
However, it seems this respite will not last. The National Environment Agency said the haze could return by late March.
Singapore is expected to enter the inter-monsoon period in late March until May.
During the inter-monsoon period, winds are typically light and variable in direction and they may carry haze to Singapore if hotspots increase in central Sumatra.
Singapore enters the Southwest Monsoon in June, where winds over Singapore typically blow from the southeast or southwest. The Southwest Monsoon is the traditional dry season and Singapore could be affected by haze if hotspots increase in central Sumatra.
Authorities say most climate models are predicting that an El Niño weather pattern may develop over the second half of the year. Depending on the intensity of this phenomenon, Singapore may experience even drier and warmer weather.
Last June, Singapore experienced its worst case of haze in history, when the PSI hit hazardous levels.
Last month, Singapore narrowly escaped the haze thanks to prevailing northeasterly winds, even though the haze recorded in Riau, Indonesia, was even more severe than that in June 2013. The question is, will this year be worse?
Dr Balakrishnan said: “I cannot predict with certainty, but I want to say that because we are worried about an El Niño year, a drier year, and because we have seen that the level of burning in Riau this year was even worse than last year, it means we have to be prepared. We have to prepare for the worst but hope for the best.”
For this reason, authorities will start using the new PSI a month earlier than scheduled.
The new PSI may reflect slightly higher readings since it now incorporates six pollutant parameters including PM2.5.
PM2.5 are tiny particles that can travel deep into the respiratory tract and may pose serious health concerns.
Even so, health advisories issued by authorities remain largely unchanged, and healthy individuals can still carry on normal activities as long as the PSI is under 100.
However, authorities are advising employers to plan early.
Dr Balakrishnan said: “We want you to identify who are your vulnerable employees. We want you to work out adjustments to the work schedules so that when the air is not so good, you can decrease the level of physical exertion needed.
“Thirdly, we want you to have all the equipment necessary so for instance, if you need to get masks, this is a good time to go and stock up on the masks because there are lots available. The onus is on the employer to deploy the employee in a safe way, and to provide all the necessary protection.”
Dr Balakrishnan reiterated that the government has sufficient N95 masks in its stockpile.
He said the masks are not the solution. What’s more important, he stressed, is to prepare early and make adjustments based on the Health Ministry’s advisory.
For example, if the air quality worsens when school is in session, Dr Balakrishnan said schools may keep students in school for a longer period for their safety.
“If school is in session and the air suddenly deteriorates, we will not dismiss the students and ask them to find their own way home in times of high pollution. The students will be safer staying on in school in a controlled, safe environment, and that’s what the MOE (Ministry of Education) intends to do.”
Elderly women in Singapore displaying their N95 face masks after collecting them at a community centre. (AFP/Roslan Rahman)
Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong has urged the nation to be psychologically prepared for a prolonged period of haze due to the dry season and monsoon winds.
SINGAPORE: Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong has urged the nation to be psychologically prepared for a prolonged period of haze due to the dry season and monsoon winds.
His comments came despite the slightly clearer skies on Sunday, with the Pollutant Standards Index (PSI) hovering in the moderate range for most of the afternoon.
“Today with the masks and the blue skies, we (can) relax a bit. Tomorrow it may come back again… because the burning is continuing. There is no rain, it’s dry weather, the winds are blowing from Sumatra to Singapore.
“We must psychologically be prepared to see this come, go, get a bit worse, get a bit better but I think this is a problem which is going to last a few weeks, maybe a couple of months until the start of the rainy season which may be September/October.”
The prime minister also added that Singapore is very serious about the haze problem and that Indonesia understands this.
“It is affecting us and we want the problem to be solved. Indonesia is a big country and the government doesn’t reach all parts of the country.
“In the short term, we have to get the Indonesians to try and put out the fires and to stop people from starting more fires… In the long term, they have to have the right way of farming and cultivating so that you don’t have farmers burning like this all the time.”
When asked if there were differences between the current haze problem and the SARS episode ten years ago, the prime minister said: “There are some interesting differences. The first thing is SARS can kill you, if you get sick it’s a very serious matter. The haze, if you are ill, can make your illness worse for most people. The haze is an inconvenience but life can carry on.
“Secondly, SARS is infectious… the haze is not infectious. Also with haze we are not talking about something so poisonous that you must avoid contact.”
Speaking at a townhall meeting, Mr Lee said PSI readings will fluctuate day-to-day and hour-to-hour.
However Singaporeans must take this in their stride, adapt and continue with their lives.
Acting Minister for Manpower Tan Chuan-Jin said: “I understand the clamour for people saying we should stop work. We do that when particular incidents happen, when we need to freeze. But we need to also look at things in context. This particular situation is serious but it is not SARS, it’s not even dengue where fatalities can happen. This is something for those with vulnerabilities and is being aggravated by the haze conditions.
“If you are a crane operator and you are hoisting up heavy loads and visibility is bad, I would say you would stop until visibility improves, when you sense it is safe to do it. That applies when there is haze or no haze.”
The prime minister also emphasised that Singaporeans must avoid speculation and clarify rumours.
He added that they can do so by checking the haze microsite.
Mr Lee also urged Singaporeans to help their neighbours, especially older Singaporeans and young children.
He said community clubs have air conditioned haze shelters and that more are being created throughout Singapore.
On the supply of the N95 masks, Mr Lee noted that the government is urgently delivering them to clinics, pharmacies and retailers, and that there is no need to hoard or panic-buy the masks.
A group of Singaporean seniors with their donated phones from the Silverline project.
“Why build new hardware when the world is full of amazing iPhones and Android devices?” With that idea, one civic-minded startup in Singapore is building specialist apps for senior citizens that will then be given to elderly folks on donated phones. Called Project Silverline, it’s launching a crowdfunding campaign today on Indiegogo that’s aiming to raise US$50,000.
Essentially, Silverline is a suite of healthcare and personal safety apps (pictured below) that are made with seniors in mind, with large icons and clear, simple text. Among the five current apps are ‘Connect’, which is a replacement for the phone’s contacts app; ‘Well Being’ provides alarms for things like taking medicine; and the ‘Emergency’ app gives one-tap access to Singapore‘s police or ambulance hotlines. The apps are initially available for iOS and can run on older handsets, such as an iPhone 3GS, so that they work fine on the kind of repurposed devices they hope youngsters will donate in a charitable fashion.
Silverline is being backed by local telco SingTel, which has been accepting old handset donations at stores for several months already, collecting any iPhone 3GS, 4, or 4S that can be given a new lease of life as a communication lifeline for a senior citizen in Singapore with these apps.
The ‘Well Being’ part of the Silverline apps for seniors.
With SingTel already on board, and the apps already developed for iOS, I asked Ciaran Lyons from NewtonCircus, the startup running this project, why it’s now taking the crowdfunding route:
Part of the crowdfunding budget will be used to work with some neat external devices – such as battery-powered accelerometers – which provide additional functionality. But so far everything can be installed on your factory-fresh smartphone – though we’d prefer it were second-hand.
Ciaran adds that Silverline has so far clocked up “18 months of research, prototyping and user feedback to make sure that seniors love and benefit from our apps.” In addition to what the suite of apps do already, they’re working on bringing them to Android in future and getting the Silverline apps into the iTunes App Store so that anyone can make use of them. Plus, the startup is testing a personal security app that can detect falls, and has started building games that can detect cognitive decline.
To keep the elderly connected once they’ve received the donated handsets, SingTel is giving 1,000 voice and data plans, good for a whole year, to the phone beneficiaries free of charge. Ciaran says that “the need, even just in Singapore, is far greater than that and it’s growing every year. So we have a lot to do.” But the SingTel site suggests that only 27 old iPhones have been donated so far, so the project is in need of a hardware boost so that some of Singapore’s neediest citizens can have these apps at their disposal.
We’re told that Newton Circus is a startup of 11 people. Though they have received funding from different sources for various initiatives, there’s been no venture capital input as of yet. The team is working with registered charities in the US, UK, Hong Kong, and Australia to create similar phone donation programs there.
S’pore to allow sale of Chinese…
SINGAPORE: From January 1, 2013, the Health Sciences Authority (HSA) will allow the sale of Chinese proprietary medicines (CPM) containing berberine in Singapore.
This was announced on Saturday by Health Minister Gan Kim Yong at a forum on traditional Chinese medicine by overseas experts.
Berberine is an alkaloid naturally present in some herbs such as Rhizoma coptidis and Cortex phellodendri, and used in traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) for its “heat-clearing” and “dampness-drying” properties.
The prohibition of the use of berberine, as controlled under the Poisons Act, was implemented by the Ministry of Health in 1978, arising from local safety concerns that berberine could cause severe jaundice and brain damage in glucose-6-phosphate dehydrogenase (G6PD) -deficient babies.
The HSA, together with its expert committees, has been monitoring the situation and conducting ongoing scientific reviews on the safety profile of berberine.
This includes literature review of scientific publications on the safety of berberine, and surveillance of adverse reactions reported in other places which practise TCM such as China, Taiwan and Hong Kong.
The feedback from the local TCM community and developments in the local regulatory landscape were also factors considered in the review of berberine.
The latest review conducted by the Berberine Expert Panel indicates that there are no major safety concerns when berberine is used appropriately.
However, it cautioned that it should still be avoided in infants, G6PD-deficient individuals of all ages, pregnant and breastfeeding women.
Professor Ng Han Seong, chairman of the Berberine Expert Panel, said: “There are various factors that led to the lifting of the ban. I think one is… (that the) Ministry of Health started, in 1965, a screening process for all babies… so we know which babies are deficient in G6PD. And so the mothers were given adequate education and all the warnings of the use of herbs.”
Some physicians have hailed the authorities’ move to lift the ban.
Wong Chin Nai, president of the Singapore Chinese Physicians’ Association, said: “In future, we can freely use herbs containing berberine to treat patients. This can hopefully bring about better outcomes and benefit patients.”
Based on the recommendations of the Berberine Expert Panel and taking into consideration that there are sufficient safeguards in place, HSA, in consultation with MOH, will adopt a phased approach in the lifting of the prohibition on berberine in Singapore.
For a start, the use of CPM containing berberine, for example in capsules, oral liquid preparations, powders and granules used by TCM practitioners in their dispensing, would be allowed with effect from January 1, 2013.
In the absence of major safety issues, the HSA will review the possible further lifting of prohibition on Chinese herbs containing berberine by 2015.
HSA said to safeguard public health, CPM containing berberine will be subjected to the current regulatory regime whereby HSA will review the safety and quality of these preparations before they are placed in the local market.
Additional labelling requirements, in the form of appropriate cautionary statements to warn against use in infants, G6PD-deficient individuals of all ages, pregnant and breastfeeding women, will be imposed on these products.
With the lifting of the ban, HSA will continue to monitor the situation closely for any occurrence of adverse reactions.
In addition, educational programmes to TCM practitioners to share on adverse reactions reporting and the precautions that should be taken when using CPM containing berberine will be conducted.
HSA will also engage the TCM industry to provide them with the relevant safety information, so as to reach out to Chinese medical halls and retailers, as well as conduct dialogue sessions with the industry on the relevant technical requirements for these CPM.
SINGAPORE: Singapore is the healthiest country in the world, according to a new survey published this week.
According to a Bloomberg report, the island country was tops in the world as the healthiest, followed closely by Italy, Australia and Switzerland.
Singaporeans were given the top honors as a result of their strong healthcare system, which has seen residents have longer life expectancies and lower death rates.
The final ranking was calculated based on a health-risk score which took into consideration factors such as cigarette smoking, alcohol consumption, obesity rates, physically inactivity and extent of immunisation coverage.
This score was then deducted from a main health score which was calculated from basic health factors such as life expectancy at birth, infant mortality rate, causes of death and death rates of different age groups.
Singaporeans have one the highest global life expectancy rates.
The report also comes as the Singapore government is looking to double healthcare expenditures in the next five years to continue to push a healthy society.
Residents told Bikyamasr.com that they believe the government is on the right track for boosting the health of its residents and hope for a “brighter future.”
An Indonesian girl who travelled with her family to Singapore died from the H5N1 avian flu shortly after returning to Indonesia.
The 8-year-old developed a fever a day before her trip to Singapore and visited a doctor here.
She was here with her family for six days from June 19 to June 24 with her mother and some relatives, according to details released by the Ministry of Health (MOH) to the media.
She stayed in a hotel here, but the ministry declined to reveal which hotel it was. Her condition worsened after she returned and she was diagnosed with the avian flu on June 29.
The child had reportedly carried freshly killed chickens with her father earlier last month, on June 12.
As a precautionary measure, the MOH has started contact tracing and hospitals have been alerted to the case.
Her aunt who resides and the general practitioner who treated her are both fine, reported The Straits Times.
Hospitals such as the National University Hospital said their emergency medicine departments have been alerted and will look out for patients with flu-like symptoms such as fever, cough, sore throat, chills, body ache, headache and vomiting.
There have been no local cases of H5N1 reported to MOH, and it said chances of transmission between humans are extremely low.