Emergency measures have been put in place including halting outdoor activities in schools, suspending construction activities and banning government vehicles from plying to cut down the excessive pollution that has now covered Beijing for three straight days.
Beijing remained covered grey smog through Monday as pollutants, parts of which came from vehicle waste and coal burning during the unusually chilly winter, gradually accumulated in recent windless days. The hazy weather would continue until Wednesday in Beijing, local meteorologists said.
Doctors with the Beijing Chaoyang Hospital and the Beijing Children's Hospital said the number of patients with respiratory disease had jumped sharply in the past few days, state media reported.
Beijing issued the city's first orange fog warning -- the second most severe level in China's four-tier color-coded weather warning system -- on Sunday morning due to decreased visibility. Similar measures were also launched in other cities, state-run news agency, Xinhua reported.
Experts believe that in addition to unfavorable weather conditions, the roots of the smog are industrial emissions, vehicle exhausts and dust from construction sites…the prolonged smog these past days indicates that as China's industrialization and urbanization is stepping forward, the environmental situation facing the country will be increasingly challenging and counter-pollution control work will be arduous and require more vigorous, effective and scientific measures,” Xinhua reported, adding: “There is no reason to be too optimistic.”
Monitoring data released on Sunday showed that air quality indexes in most regions of Beijing had hit 500, the indexes' highest level.
"Beijing implemented its emergency response plan for hazardous pollution for the first time on Sunday," said Yu Jianhua, director of the air quality department under the municipal environmental protection bureau.
The municipal environmental monitoring center said readings for PM2.5, or airborne particles measuring less than 2.5 micrometers in diameter, had reached more than 700 micrograms per square meter at several monitoring stations in Beijing, reaching as high as 993 Saturday evening.
"These figures represent extremely bad pollution. Pollutants have gradually accumulated over the course of recent windless days, making the air quality even worse," Zhu Tong, a professor from the college of environmental sciences and engineering at Peking University told Xinhua.
The pollution is expected to engulf Beijing until Wednesday, when wind will arrive to blow the smog away, according to a weather report from the meteorological station.