The poor air quality in Delhi was at high level on Thursday

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Delhi’s 20 million residents in India were effectively breathing smoke on Thursday. The AQI exceeded 450 in many places early in the day, according to data from the Central Pollution Control Board. India’s federal pollution control board on Thursday evening banned the entry of diesel trucks carrying non-essential goods into the capital. Parents and environmentalists on social media demanded that schools be closed. An increasing number of people have been reporting pneumonia and other chest infections in Delhi.

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The capital this week halted most construction and demolition work. The authorities also appealed to residents to share car and motorcycle journeys, work from home when possible and reduce the use of coal and firewood at home. “This is a medical emergency as people are affected by short-term and long-term impacts of the pollution. You are immediately affected when the lungs are exposed to this air,” Chairman of the Institute of Chest Surgery at Medanta Hospital, Dr Arvind Kumar told media.The Union Environment Minister Bhupender Yadav described the capital as a “gas chamber.” The Commission for Air Quality Management had last week said the increased incidents of stubble burning in Punjab this year “is a matter of serious concern”.