Punjab Mandates Face Masks in 10 Districts Amid Escalating Smog Level

Mon Nov 20 2023
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LAHORE: In response to the escalating smog crisis in Punjab, the provincial government has made it mandatory for all citizens engaging in outdoor activities to wear face masks in the 10 critically affected districts from November 20 to 26.

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The decision comes in the wake of hazardous smog levels, particularly in districts around Lahore.

The air quality index (AQI) in Lahore is currently reported as severe, prompting urgent preventive measures. Nankana Sahib, Sheikhupura, Kasur, Gujranwala, Gujrat, Sialkot, Narowal, Hafizabad, and Mandi Bahuddin are also witnessing alarming AQI levels, leading to the imposition of these restrictions.

Highlighting the health risks associated with smog, the Secretary of the Primary and Secondary Healthcare Department, in an official order, stressed the immediate need for preventive measures against airborne diseases and pollution-related threats, including the possibility of acid rain. Citing the Punjab Infectious Diseases (Prevention and Control) Act, 2020, the order relies on legal provisions, particularly Section 4(c), 5(1)(c), and 5(1)(e), to enforce this health safety measure.

Caretaker Punjab Chief Minister Mohsin Naqvi issued a directive, requiring citizens in smog-affected areas, including Lahore, to wear masks for at least one week. The directive, shared on social media, aligns with the concept of “smog holidays in Punjab 2023,” indicating the government’s proactive stance in managing the crisis.

Earlier, on November 13, the Lahore High Court mandated Saturdays as holidays in smog-affected areas, directing the government to declare holidays due to smog in schools and colleges. This decision responds to the alarming pollution levels that recently positioned Lahore as the most polluted city globally.

Caretaker Transport Minister Ibrahim Hasan Murad has hinted at potential work-from-home arrangements and online schooling due to persistent smog conditions. The government is actively considering these measures to mitigate the impact of the smog crisis, emphasizing collective responsibility for prioritizing public health.

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