In Thailand, about 2.4 million people have experienced health problems linked to air pollution since the start of the year, health authorities said in the country, some areas of which are suffocating under a toxic smog.

Poor air quality pushed 2.4 million people to seek medical care since January, with 184,465 hospital admissions this week alone, said Dr Opas Karnkawinpong, secretary of the Ministry of Public Health, on Wednesday.

According to air quality monitoring company IQAir, Bangkok and the northern city of Chiang Mai were this morning among the world’s most polluted cities.

Dr Opas explained that respiratory problems, dermatitis, eye inflammation and sore throat were among the most common reasons for medical visits.

The health authorities they called the population to use high quality N95 masks against air pollution, close windows and doors, spend as little time outdoors as possible and exercise indoors.

“Today the cloud is too much. I’m coughing so much,” says one netizen on Facebook. “I have a sore throat. I tested for COVID but it wasn’t that. As I see the level of contamination, (I say) this could be it.”

The toxic “haze” is linked to smoke from forest fires and the burning of reeds by farmers, experts say, as well as emissions from vehicles and industry.

Thailand has over 70 million inhabitants and poor air quality has become a burning issue as the May 14 election approaches. The outgoing government is accused of insufficient action to tackle the problem.