Beijing has declared its first ever red alert regarding the high levels of smog in the city, calling for traffic restrictions and closures of schools and construction sites for the next three days.
The red alert warning, the highest possible caution on air quality, is issued when the readings are forecast to be over AQI 200 for three or more days.
According to reports from local newspaper Beijing News, the city declared an orange alert yesterday (6 December 2015) but today upgraded the warning to red.
Despite smog levels currently being lower than they have been in recent weeks, authorities have announced that an extreme amount of pollution is to hit the city in the coming days.
Government officials are taking action to ensure the safety of residents, the most immediate effect being the odds/evens traffic controls, a measure bought in by the city to restrict and ration the amount of road space used by transport. This will take effect tomorrow (8 December 2015) at 7am local time.
In addition, the Beijing Municipal Commission of Education has issued a memorandum suggesting that all schools should be closed on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday this week, according to a report from ex-pat magazine The Beijinger.
A forecast has shown that a cold front is expected on Thursday to arrive and clear the smog.
Prior to the red alert warning, some construction and industry had already been curbed due to the orange alert.
Beijings warning system, which includes air pollution levels ranging from (lowest to highest) blue, yellow, orange and red, was devised in 2013 to provide a level of instructions to local business and residents depending on the level of pollution.
The government issues alerts through multiple platforms including TV, radio, newspapers, the internet and text messages.
Officials have put strict measures in place as a result of the red alert, in an aim to protect the health and safety of the local population.
Earlier this year a US study paper showed that air pollution kills an average of 4,000 people every day in China. According to the report, Beijing is only a moderate source, although it receives much of its pollution from distant industrial areas (see airqualitynews.com story).