With a “severely polluted” smog blanketing the national capital and its adjoining region on Tuesday, the Indian Medical Association (IMA) described the prevailing air pollution in Delhi-NCR as a “public health emergency”, urging the people not to go outdoors and demanding the shutting of schools.

IMA president Dr K K Aggarwal said the Air Quality Index (AQI) in some parts of the Delhi-NCR region soared to the extremely hazardous level of 1,000 on Tuesday.

Dr Aggarwal said the grave situation will remain the same for the next three days, recommending that schools should be closed and people should take “medical holiday”.

He stressed that the only way to avoid this hazardous air is to “stay indoors”. He advised the elderly, children and patients with respiratory and cardiac problems to avoid strenuous activity, which leads to inhalation of greater volumes of particulate matter.

“There is scientific evidence to show that poor air quality can aggravate asthma or other existing lung disease such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). High PM2.5 levels can increase blood pressure and can also increase the risk of acute cardiovascular events such as heart attack, stroke. Also, patients of heart disease are at a risk of sudden cardiac death,” the IMA chief said.

Dr Aggarwal asserted that the current air quality in Delhi would not be suitable even for a normally healthy person. “They can have cough and breathlessness on exertion,” he said, adding that wearing mask would not be a solution since it does not act as a “pollution umbrella”.

In view of the alarmingly high levels of air pollution in the national capital, the IMA has also called for immediate cancellation of the Airtel Delhi Half Marathon to be held on 19 November morning.

“Delhi has been experiencing high air pollution levels these past days. The air quality is particularly poor in the early morning when pollution is extremely high,” Dr Aggarwal said while referring to the upcoming Half Marathon in the city.

He warned that air pollution  affects the performance of the runner and that a dangerously high pollution level might have disastrous health consequences for everyone.