FRESH AIR

Beijing is finally breathing a sigh of relief after a week in hell

Obsession
China's Transition
Obsession
China's Transition

The toxic air that’s shrouded Beijing in a haze the past week has finally subsided.

At midnight on Dec. 22, the Beijing Municipal Environmental Protection department lifted (link in Chinese) its red alert, the country’s highest pollution warning. At the time, the Air Quality Index was still at 466, a hazardous level, according to Beijing Air, which monitors pollution levels and is not associated with the government.

The red alert, Beijing’s first of the year, went into effect at 4:30pm on Dec. 16. As of noon local time on Dec. 22, the air quality, at 72, was considered “moderate.” Chinanews, a state-owned news organization, however said that “Beijing air quality overall went back to excellent level.”

Since the red alert went into effect, many Beijingers found themselves trapped as smog restrictions cancelled flights and closed down roads.

Air China passenger planes preparing to take off at the Beijing Capital International Airport as the capital of China is shrouded by heavy smog on Dec.21, 2016. Beijing and much of industrial northern China are in the midst of a "red alert," the highest level in China's four-tiered pollution warning system. The alert has affected 460 million people, according to Greenpeace East Asia, which calculated that about 200 million people were living in areas that had experienced levels of air pollution more than 10 times above the guideline set by the World Health Organization. (AP Photo/Andy Wong)
Air China passenger planes preparing to take off at the Beijing Capital International Airport on Dec. 21. (AP/Andy Wong)
A man wearing a mask for protection against air pollution looks at a flight information board at the Beijing Capital International Airport as the capital of China is shrouded by heavy smog on Dec.21, 2016. Beijing and much of industrial northern China are in the midst of a "red alert," the highest level in China's four-tiered pollution warning system. The alert has affected 460 million people, according to Greenpeace East Asia, which calculated that about 200 million people were living in areas that had experienced levels of air pollution more than 10 times above the guideline set by the World Health Organization. (AP Photo/Andy Wong)
A man wearing a mask looks at a flight information board at the Beijing Capital International Airport. (AP/Andy Wong)
A man wears a mask with a skeleton design near the smoggy night scene of the Central Business District under construction in Beijing, China on Dec.21, 2016. Chinese weather forecasters and state media say the dense, gray smog that has smothered much of China, closing schools and grounding planes, may finally soon give way. (AP Photo/Ng Han Guan)
A man wearing a mask at the Central Business District under construction in Beijing. (AP/Ng Han Guan)

The month of December is often when pollution peaks, as the city burns more coal to heat homes and businesses. The city was finally rescued by cold air, which blasted down from the north and blew away (link in Chinese) the choking smog, according to Chinanews.

Though people can breathe a sigh of relief, some remain upset. “To tackle the pollution you rely on God’s wind,” commented (link in Chinese) a Shanghai-based China’s social media Weibo user. “Looks like an easy way to govern the country in this way.”

Read this next: People in Beijing are trapped in hell as smog restrictions shut down highways and airports

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