The haze is like the paparazzi. When it comes, you’re likely to be seen walking around dressed in a surgical mask and huge sunglasses to hide from it.
Although the haze situation in Singapore has improved significantly since 2013 and 2015 when the PSI levels hit crazy highs in the range of 300 to 400 (normal PSI is between 0 and 50), it’s still something that Southeast Asian countries face especially during dry season (from May to September).
As the number of hot spots in Sumatra grows, there’s a high chance that haze is coming back to Singapore again. 2019 edition.
Why is there haze every year in Singapore?
Every year during the haze season, villages and businesses in Sumatra practise slashing and burning shrub land to prepare the land for crops. Many who do that believe that it’s the cheapest way clear the land and the fire ashes act as a source of fertiliser, which is without basis.
While the Indonesian government has set up agencies to try and resolve the problem, it’s easier said than done as villagers believe that slash-and-burn practices are part of their culture.
I mean, try getting Chinese Singaporeans to remove burning kim zua from their culture? I assure you, it won’t be an easy conversation.
And when the season is very dry, the fires get worse. And it’s not just Singapore that suffers. Our neighbour Malaysia also gets blanketed by the annual haze whenever this time of the year rolls around.
Haze Subsidy Scheme in Singapore
In addition to inconveniencing you, haze hurts your wallet financially too. Whether it’s buying that new N95 mask, or having your air conditioner on 24/7, or taking a cab because you don’t want to risk waiting for the bus or train in the haze, haze is seemingly innocuous but can actually cost us more than usual.
One scheme that you can take advantage of during haze seasons is the Haze Subsidy Scheme, which usually is reactivated when the situation gets bad. When the scheme is active, the Ministry of Health (MOH) will provide a list of participating clinics where you can get subsidised treatment of no more than $10.
If you think you’re coming down with a haze-related medical condition, you may get to enjoy subsidised treatment of no more than $10. The eligible medical conditions are: allergic rhinitis, asthma, bronchitis, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), conjunctivitis and upper respiratory tract infections (URTI).
That last one isn’t to be confused with urinary tract infections, which tend to be caused by people staying in bed for entirely different reasons.
Currently, the Haze Subsidy Scheme isn’t activated, but we stand a moderate risk of experiencing haze in 2019 that could be as terrible as the bout in 2015. We will update accordingly if this scheme kicks in.
Haze Subsidy Scheme eligibility criteria
The Haze Subsidy Scheme, like other haze-related announcements, are intended to help those who need it most.
All children aged 18 and below and elderly aged 65 and above are eligible.
In addition to these age groups, all those who are under the following schemes are also eligible:
- Community Health Assist Scheme (CHAS)
- Public Assistance (PA)
- Medical Fee Exemption Card (MFEC)
- Medical Fee Assistance Card (MFAC), and
- Pioneer Generation (PA)
Wow, we Singaporeans really love our acronyms, huh.
Also, you are eligible if you earn $1,800 or less a month (averaged over the last six months). However, you will need to fill in a self-declaration form first. The form will be available at the polyclinic and participating clinics.
How much does it cost?
No more than $10 per patient. What’s more, if you have the Pioneer Generation card, then you pay no more than $5.
In addition to the savings from the Haze Subsidy Scheme, ComCare clients aged over 62, CHAS Blue Card and Pioneer Generation Card holders can also collect two N95 masks for free from distribution points at 108 Community Centres across Singapore.
Do you know of any other haze-related subsidies? Share them with us.
Image credit: Nicolas Lannuzel via Flickr