China’s capital Beijing, under fire to take effective measures against air pollution, raised its four-tiered alert system to “orange” for the first time on Friday, as heavy smog was forecast to roll into the city over the next three days. The orange level, the second highest, advises schools and kindergartens to cancel outside sports classes, but falls short of ordering school to close and keeping government vehicles off the road, provisions which come into force with the “red” level.
The alert was raised after the Beijing government faced criticism from state media and on the internet for failing to act against high pollution levels last weekend. The capital was already shrouded in smoky, white smog by Friday afternoon. Data from the US embassy put levels of PM2.5 particles, those measuring less than 2.5 micrometres across and the most noxious form of air pollution, at 378. The US Environmental Protection Agency considers levels above 300 to be hazardous. Last weekend, the index topped 500.