Macedonia’s government has ordered the winter break for students to be extended to January 23 because of extremely high levels of air pollution in many cities across the country.
The government said in a statement on January 20 thatthe measure is to “shorten the time of exposure of students to air pollution and to protect their health.”
City officials in Skopje also have introduced free public transport and have doubled the prices for parking in order encourage people not to use private cars in the capital.
Authorities blame extremely high levels of air pollution across Macedonia on people using old vehicles for transportation and wood-burning stoves for heat.
Two cities in Macedonia – the western city of Tetovo and the capital, Skopje — were named by the European Air Quality Index in December 2018 as the most polluted cities in Europe.
Public health institutions have issued warnings and have attributed the deaths of some 1,500 people a year to air pollution in the Balkan country since 2015.
Toxic PM10 and PM2.5 air particles in Skopje in recent days were more than 10 times over the allowed limits.
PM2.5 particles cause hazy air and contribute to respiratory illnesses, heart disease, stroke, and cancer.