Hong Kong·s air pollution reached dangerous levels on last week, reigniting concerns about public health and fears that the city could lose out on crucial foreign investment due to the thick smog.
Across the southern Chinese territory, the Air Pollution Index last week passed the critical 100 mark, the point at which the Environmental Protection Department warns anyone with respiratory or heart problems to stay home.
At the weekend, the index reached 144. The high on Monday was 113.
The poor air quality — which left the city·s Victoria Harbour shrouded in haze — was recorded even though many factories in the neighbouring Pearl River Delta in mainland China have been closed for a week-long holiday.
More than a dozen Hong Kong pensioners were hospitalised on Saturday alone for breathing ailments, prompting local aid charities to cry foul.
“Even I could see the air quality was particularly bad,” said Esther Yuen, a spokeswoman at Senior Citizen Home Safety Association.
“For the elderly, the effect would be worse and the number of those who reported they had problems breathing suddenly shot up on Saturday,” she added, advising the elderly to stay home or breathe through a wet towel when outdoors.
Hong Kong authorities have introduced a series of measures to combat persistent pollution, which business groups warn is deterring investment and tourism and making expatriates think twice about moving here.
The Environmental Protection Department says the soaring levels are due to concentrations of ozone, a pollutant that can inhibit the lungs and irritate the respiratory system.