Beijing smog casts gloom over Chinese New Year holiday

BEIJING: Beijing was once again shrouded in smog on Saturday (Feb 13) after several days of heavy pollution which has plagued China’s capital during the Chinese New Year holiday.

Visibility across Beijing was severely limited by the smog on the second day of Chinese New Year, with the tops of the city’s Beijing’s tallest group of buildings in the east of the city almost completely covered by the haze.

Polluted day in Beijing

A person walks on a pedestrian bridge during polluted air, following the outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Beijing, China on Feb 13, 2021. (Photo: REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins)

The PM 2.5 level – which measures pollution – in the city’s urban areas reached 239 micrograms per cubic meter, according to state news agency Xinhua.

Local authorities had issued a yellow alert for heavy air pollution on Thursday. China has a colour-coded, four-tier warning system for air pollution, with red the most serious, followed by orange, yellow and blue.

“The air is horrible,” said cosmetics sector worker Katie Li, 35, as she made her way to the gym.

“Starting the Chinese New Year with this kind of weather is a bit depressing,” she added.

READ: China air quality improved in 2020 on lockdowns, tougher quality control

Staff at the Mutianyu section of the Great Wall of China in the north of Beijing said that they had received around 5,000 visitors on Saturday, a far cry from their usual daily capacity of 20,000 although they have capped numbers to around half of that due to COVID-19 restrictions.

Polluted day in Beijing

People visit the Mutianyu section of the Great Wall of China during a day with polluted air, following the outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in Beijing, China on Feb 13, 2021. (Photo: REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins)

Some visitors complained about the haze affecting the views. But others, such as 32-year-old banking sector worker Brandon Chen, were unfazed by the conditions.

“Even though the air isn’t great, for Chinese people walking up to a high point in the new year carries a lot of importance,” Chen said.

“Doing so will mean things will get better and better for you in your life and you’ll become more prosperous with each passing day,” he added.

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