A number of schools in eastern China have moved their routine flag-raising ceremonies into classrooms as students returned to school on Monday amid the most severe smog ever experienced by the region.
Large areas of China’s Yangtze River Delta region, one of the country’s most flourishing economic hubs, have since last week been affected by the longest-lasting, most widespread smog weather since authorities began to monitor the levels of tiny particle PM2.5.
Many schools in Jiangsu province were ordered to close as local government issued the highest level pollution alarm.
Pujia elementary school in Hangzhou cancelled the weekly routine flag-raising ceremonies normally held outdoors on Monday.
A school spokeswoman surnamed Yu who declined to reveal her full name told the South China Morning Post that the school also cancelled a cross-country activity to avoid having students taking part in outdoor activities during the smog.
She said the school made sure the indoor ceremony would not differ from normal procedures, as students would still sing the national anthem, following music from speakers and student representatives making speeches.
Photos on official Xinhua website showed dozens of primary school students standing next to their desks in a classroom and saluting to a Chinese flag displayed on a large television set. Two student representatives were seen making the routine “under-flag” speech to the entire school through speakers.
Nanjing Zhiyuan Foreign Language Primary School also held their flag-raising ceremony indoors on Monday. A staff member at the school said it was a common approach for the school during poor weather such as rain or snow.
A cold front blowing across China entering this week has brought the air pollution level down in the coastal regions. Yet the Air Quality Index, a standard that Chinese authorities use to measure pollution levels, was still above 100, deemed “unhealthy,” in various areas in Nanjing and Hangzhou as of Tuesday morning.