LAHORE    -   The Punjab School Education Department has decided to close public and private schools for two days (November 15 and 16) due to dense smog in Lahore, Gujranwala and Faisalabad districts.

According to a notification issued here on Thursday, the schools would remain closed in the wake of dense smog and health hazards to children. All deputy commissioners, administrators and chief executive officers (CEOs) education of the districts concerned had been issued instructions in this regard.

Punjab Chief Minister Usman Buzdar last week announced closure of schools as smog Air Quality Index soared to over 500. In a tweet, the chief minister said: “Due to sudden increase in smog, all schools in Lahore will remain closed tomorrow.

We are closely monitoring the #LahoreSmog situation. Administration is already on high alert and have tasked them to escalate actions against crop burning and other factors that contribute to smog.”

Reportedly people took to the social media complaining of an acrid smell of smoke in the atmosphere, with visibility also dropping. LahoreSmog remained a trending topic across Pakistan, with several residents saying they were having trouble breathing outdoors.

Prior to CM Buzdar’s announcement, Punjab Education Minister Murad Raas also tweeted that the government was monitoring the worrisome smog situation. Doctors say that people who feel the effects of smog should drink plenty of water and wear face masks if they have to travel outside.

However, light rain in parts of province provided much-needed relief to people.

Experts have forecast more rains during the next couple of days.

In Lahore, the rains, though light, have increased hopes of giving much needed relief to people from dry cold diseases.

Though the rains were not enough to wash away all the accumulated pollutants from the atmosphere, the wet conditions would definitely have decreased the pollution level.

The rains helped decreasing the level of hazardous PM2.5 in Lahore. At 9am, PM2.5 was 502 AQI which decreased to 218 AQI, still unhealthy.  Intense smog caused the government to close down public sector and private schools in three districts- Lahore, Faisalabad and Gujranwala-for two days, Friday (today) and Saturday (tomorrow) to save children from serious health hazards.

Excessive pollution and dry cold had increased weather related diseases among Lahorites, especially elderly people and children with weak immunity. Medical experts hoped significant decrease in cold borne diseases after the rain.

“The rains will help decreasing pollution level. It will provide relief to the people from skin dryness and allergy, cough, flu, common cold and fever,” said Dr Abdul Rauf, a family physician running clinic in Usman Gunj, congested locality in Northern Lahore.