China's capital registered a boom in online orders for condoms and sportswear rather than masks and air purifiers, as the city of over 22 million people reeled under the first-ever red alert for rising levels of pollution.While it is easy to imagine a sharp rise in orders for antipollution products on smoggy days, a boom in the sales of condoms and sports-wear might be a little unexpected, official media here reported.
According to search ratings for last week provided by Taobao.com, China's largest online shopping platform, searches for condoms were clearly correlated with those Chinese cities that had heavy smog.
Beijing has been engulfed by thick smog for several days in the past few weeks, following which the city's first ever red alert was issued on Monday. December 7 stating that air will remain foul till December 10.
In Beijing and some northern cities that were severely hit by smog, the rise in orders of condoms went beyond the sales in cities with cleaner air. Interest in sportswear also increased during the heavy smog. Those cities with serious haze recorded more frequent searches for sportswear, as residents have a stronger willingness to exercise outside once the air gets cleaner.Beijing has taken a series of emergency pollution control restrictions, ranging from closing industrial operations to reducing road traffic by half. Beijing's vehicle restriction of odd and even number plates will last until noon on Thursday.
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Many parents complained the sudden closure of schools for three-days, which has warranted them to stay back to take care of them, and felt schools are better equipped to deal with pollution than homes. A resident said an air purifier has recently been installed in the school with funds raised from parents. "We don't have air filter at home. In all aspects, learning at school on smoggy days is better than doing it at home," she said.Although burning of coal is strictly banned in downtown Beijing and some of its suburbs, coal is still being used for heating in all rural areas of smog-affected northern provinces.Xie Shaodong, an environmental professor, said "the main cause is the widespread use of low-quality coal in rural regions and in areas with a lack of environmental supervision."