Beijing has issued its first pollution red alert as acrid smog enveloped the Chinese capital for the second time this month.

The alert will begin at 7am on Tuesday and should see millions of vehicles forced off the roads, factories and construction sites shut down and schools and nurseries advised to close.

“It is history – this is a precedent set,” said Ma Jun, director of the Institute of Public an Environmental Affairs in Beijing. “This is extremely important to stop children from being exposed to such a high level of pollution.”

Chinese authorities faced fierce criticism last week when they failed to issue a red alert even as Beijing’s residents choked on smog levels that in some areas rose to 40 times those considered safe by the World Health Organisation.

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