'Four-day' holiday in smog-hit Punjab areas

"This is my appeal to the people: stay indoors for four days," CM Mohsin Naqvi says

Azam Malik
Vehicles move amid dense smog in Lahore, Pakistan November 24, 2021. — Reuters
Vehicles move amid dense smog in Lahore, Pakistan November 24, 2021. — Reuters

  • "This is my appeal to people: stay indoors for four days," CM says.
  • Markets to be closed this Saturday; closing on Friday optional.
  • Interim CM says Lahore is "worst smog-hit city" across the globe.

LAHORE: The Punjab government has decided to observe a four-day holiday province's areas hit hard by smog, caretaker provincial chief minister Mohsin Naqvi said Tuesday.

In a press conference, the interim Punjab chief executive said that the holidays will be observed from Thursday (Iqbal Day — a national holiday) till Sunday, hoping that it would help curb smog.

The holiday will be observed in the Lahore Division — Lahore, Kasur, Sheikhupura, and Nankana Sahib districts. It will also be applicable in Gujranwala and Hafizabad.

"We are also imposing a health emergency," he added.

IQ Air.
IQ Air.

The provincial authorities had mulled last month to impose an additional weekly off, but as the situation improved, they decided against it, saying that they would keep monitoring the situation.

The IQ Air showed that the Air Quality Index (AQI) of the provincial capital Lahore has spiked to 374, while Multan stood at 442. Pindi Bhattian's AQI was at 257 and Rawalpindi 175.

An AQI of 101 to 150 is considered unhealthy for sensitive groups, 151 to 200 is unhealthy, 201 to 300 is very unhealthy, and 301 to 500 is hazardous.

"A national holiday will be observed on November 9, and on November 10 we will shut schools and offices in Punjab," the provincial chief executive told reporters in Lahore during the press briefing.

Naqvi said schools are already closed on Saturdays and Sundays, but if a school isn't closed this Saturday, then they will be asked to remain shut.

CM Naqvi, whose caretaker administration has taken over the reins until an elected government comes in, said markets will be shut on Saturdays, and if the traders think it feasible, they can close shop on Friday as well.

"This is my appeal to the people: stay indoors for four days [...] we have decided on this one-day holiday after deep deliberations," Naqvi added.

'Lahore: worst smog-hit city'

In his press conference earlier, the chief minister noted that Lahore had become the "worst smog-hit city" across the globe. He said there were reports of children having trouble breathing and they were also affected by eye infections.

The chief minister noted that through these measures, the government can make the air quality better, but cannot completely eradicate smog.

He said if people want to remain in Lahore for these four days, they should stay inside their homes — so that there is less pollution.

"People should wear masks in general, while children and the elderly should make sure that they wear it," the CM added, noting that they were not shutting down factories.

The chief minister, although noting that there were internal factors for this, blamed neighbouring India for the worsening air quality in Punjab.

"Indians burn more crop residue than us," he said, and in response to a question, noted: "Definitely, as we are on the border, the burning of crop residue has an effect on us."