Travellers to China worried that their view of the Great Wall will be obscured by Beijing’s pollution can rest easy with a “smog insurance” product being introduced this week.
“Smog insurance” is the latest response to choking air pollution in China and follows efforts that include closing industrial plants and do-it-yourself air filter specialists dispensing advice online.
Panasonic, the Japanese electronics group, said last week it would offer a pollution bonus to expatriate employees working in China.
Li Keqiang, Chinese premier, declared a “war on pollution” in his annual speech to the legislature in March. Only three Chinese cities meet national air quality standards, two of which are on islands.
CTrip, an online travel agent, and Ping An, the state-owned insurance company, have teamed up to offer “smog insurance” to travellers and residents in seven cities plagued by smog. The scheme pays out when the air quality index, or AQI, exceeds set levels for two days in a row.
A week of the index being over 300, a level deemed hazardous at prolonged exposure, yields the policy holder a free lung check while those who need hospitalisation because of it would receive Rmb1,500 ($240).
If pollution exceeds the charts, as happened this winter in the northern city of Shijiazhuang for several days, policy holders can compete for a free trip to the subtropical island of Hainan to “clear their lungs”.
It is not unknown for cities in northern China to see pollution in hazardous levels for a week at a time, particularly in the winter. But Ping An is on safer ground in the springtime, when breezes and bright skies tend to keep the AQI within more comfortable limits.
Haikou, the capital of subtropical Hainan Island, Zhoushan, on an archipelago south of Shanghai that consists of 1,390 islands and 1.1m inhabitants, and Lhasa, the capital of Tibet, were the only three to meet national standards in a survey of 74 of the largest cities, the vice minister for the environment said this month.
The air quality index assesses the level of air pollution with a grading system from 0 to 500. The higher the value, the more polluted the air and the greater the health concern: 50 represents good air quality with little potential to affect public health and over 300 is well within the hazardous range.
The air in Beijing on Thursday was rated “good” by the US embassy and “excellent” on the Chinese index.