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Merkel braves toxic Delhi air without mask

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New Delhi: German Chancellor Angela Merkel braved the toxic air in Delhi on Friday as she went about her outdoor engagements without wearing a mask, when several people in the national capital were seen taking preventive measures against inhaling the polluted air.

Merkel (65) remained seated when the national anthems of India and Germany were played during her ceremonial reception at the Rashtrapati Bhawan, after she was granted exemption due to her medical condition.

The German chancellor, however, had to face a blanket of haze that thickened over the national capital on Friday morning.

A Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) official said Delhi's Air Quality Index (AQI) entered the "severe plus" or "emergency" category late on Thursday night, the first time since January.

Merkel's hectic itinerary in Delhi included many outdoor engagements -- from the ceremonial welcome at the Rashtrapati Bhawan and paying homage to Mahatma Gandhi at Rajghat to her visit to Gandhi Smriti.

The German leader will meet a business delegation on Saturday and visit an auto parts manufacturing facility in Manesar, near Gurgaon.

Before heading home, the chancellor will also visit the Dwarka Sector 21 metro station.

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