China’s capital issued its first red alert for pollution on Monday, urging schools to close and invoking restrictions on factories and traffic that will keep half of the city’s vehicles off the roads, as a new blanket of choking smog was projected to descend on the city.
The red alert — the most serious warning on a four-tier system adopted a little over two years ago — means authorities have forecast more than three consecutive days of severe smog.
An online notice from the Beijing Municipal Environmental Protection Bureau said it issued the alert to “protect public health and reduce levels of heavy air pollution.”
Beijing hotel staffer Fan Jinglong said the smog forecast was “really worrisome.”
“We have no choice but to step up preventative measures like wearing a mask outdoors at all times,” he said.
Readings of PM2.5 particles — which includes emission from vehicle exhausts — climbed toward 300 micrograms per cubic meter on Monday and are expected to continue rising before the air begins to improve with the arrival of a cold front on Thursday. The World Health Organization designates the safe level for the tiny, poisonous particles at 25.