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Traffic police ask to wear face masks

2013/1/31 14:09:20

  Traffic police in China's smog-covered cities are waiting for authorities to cut the red tape that bars them from wearing protective face masks while on duty.

  The recent heavy pollution in north, central and eastern regions has already taken a toll on the health of officers working outside for several hours a day.

  About 37 percent of those on duty in Jinan, Shandong province, have caught colds, while almost all complain of sore throats and eye irritation, according to a survey by the city's traffic management bureau.

  "We need masks on duty because of the serious air pollution, but first we need approval from the Ministry of Public Security," said Xiao Qiang, a spokesman for Changsha traffic police in Hunan province.

  Although more than 200 officers in Jinan reportedly received masks on Wednesday, other city authorities are waiting for approval.

  According to the police dress code, officers are forbidden from wearing anything that is "not relevant" to their uniform or identification.

  Liu Chunyu, a spokeswoman for the Ministry of Public Security, was unable to confirm whether masks are included as police equipment on Wednesday.

  However, in an interview with China Police Daily, which is run by the ministry, Xue Jiangbai of the Anhui province traffic police corps said masks are not included and added that no special budget is allocated to purchase masks.

  Yet there can be exceptions to the rule. Xue said a team of traffic officers wore facemasks during a period of mass construction in Hefei, capital of Anhui province.

  "But it's not convenient to work while wearing a mask, because officers frequently need to blow their whistles and give orders to people," Xiao in Changsha said.

  In his city, she said, they have adopted other measures, such as shortening shifts on days with heavy pollution, and using cars instead of motorbikes on patrol.

  "But the masks may perform better," Xiao added.

  Many people, including celebrities, have called for authorities to allow traffic officers to wear masks.

  An online poll by China Central Television found 98 percent - about 9,900 respondents - supported giving police face masks.

  "How can they bear the pollution if they stand in the smog for hours every day?" said Gao Liulu, a Beijing resident, who was wearing a mask. "There should be room for flexibility."

  Xiao agreed with her in making changes based on the situation. "Besides, the government can take the opportunity to improve all the equipment for traffic officers," she said, adding that they need better equipment in rain and other bad weather.

  The lingering air pollution covered an area of 1.3 million square kilometers in central and eastern areas on Tuesday, including Beijing and Hebei, Shandong, Shanxi and Jiangsu provinces.

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