For the first time since new stringent air quality control measures were instituted in March of this year, Beijing has declared a Red Alert, immediately calling for odds/evens traffic restrictions, closures of factories and construction sites, and the shuttering of most schools for the next three days.
Under standards set in March of this year, a Red Alert is declared when the air quality is forecast to be over AQI 200 for three days or more. The city declared an Orange Alert at midnight last night, but upgraded the warning to Red at 6pm this evening, according to the Beijing News.
While Orange and Yellow alerts have been declared multiple times since the measures were enacted in 2013, this is the first time a Red Alert has been declared.
The most immediate effect of the Red Alert is the institution of odds/evens traffic controls on the roads, which will be enforced beginning at 7am tomorrow (Dec 8) and be in effect through noon on Thursday, Dec 10.
In addition to the mandatory restrictions, the measures call for "suggestions" such as the shuttering of preschools, primary schools, middle schools and high schools when red alerts are announced.
The Beijing Municipal Department of Education issued a memorandum this evening indicating that all schools should stop classes Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday.
They stressed that learning should not cease during the period and educators should reach out to students to give them homework via social media channels and school websites.
However, the department also said that all schools should have staff on hand to take care of children who are unable to stay at home due to parental obligations during the work day.
The education department will be issuing official updates every day at 2pm on its website.
Confusion reigned in early this evening as parents scrambled for news about whether their childrens’ school would be in session Tuesday.
The vast majority of Beijing international schools reached for comment this evening indicated that they would close through the 10th, while a handful said they would remain in session. Those local schools reached for comment said school would be in session but new lessons would not be taught so that parents could keep their children home without fear of them falling behind.
Weather forecasts call for a cold front to roll in Thursday that will help lift the heavy veil of pollution.
Beijing’s current air pollution warning system is an upgrade to a system initially devised in 2013, described in the chart below:
The city government issues the pollution alert via multiple channels, including TV, radio, newspapers, the internet, and text messages.
Red and orange alerts are supposed to be released 24 hours in advance of taking effect.