Toxic smog has forced more than 400 schools to close in the Thai capital of Bangkok.
The government confirmed 437 would shut at noon on Wednesday and would not reopen until next week.
Other public and private schools in Bangkok and surrounding provinces will be closed on Thursday and Friday,
government spokesman Puttipong Punnakan told reporters.
“We will assess the situation on Saturday and Sunday to see whether there would be the need to close all schools next week,” Puttipong said, adding that some exams scheduled for the weekend might also need to be postponed.
Pollution in the city has been hitting unhealthy levels for several weeks, with the amount of hazardous dust particles known as PM 2.5 exceeding the safe limits in 41 areas, according to the Department of Pollution Control.
PM 2.5 is a mixture of liquid droplets and solid particles that can include dust, soot and smoke. The microscopic particles can cause lung and cardiovascular problems.
Still air, traffic fumes and crop burning have been blamed for the persistent smog.
Air quality readings on Wednesday ranked Bangkok as the 5th most polluted city in the world behind the Indian capital of Delhi, which came in at number one.
Thai authorities have been using drones and water cannon to spray the dust, as well as sprinkling chemicals from planes in an attempt to trigger rain – but to little effect.
Residents have been advised to wear face masks and avoid outdoor activities, while people celebrating next week’s Lunar New Year holiday have been told to limit the use of incense and fireworks.
It follows warnings by doctors to Sky News that Bangkok could face a pollution health crisis if it does not properly address the problem.
Professor Nitipatana Chierakul, a consultant at Siriraj Hospital, said earlier this month the number of patients suffering from respiratory disease in the city has been rising since August and many more people would become ill if a long term
solution wasn’t implemented.
(c) Sky News 2019: Bangkok: More than 400 schools closed amid ‘unhealthy’ pollution levels