To prevent the entry of the novel coronavirus, or COVID-19, into the CNMI, the Commonwealth Ports Authority is now in the midst of buying a thermal body scanner worth about $35,000 to detect the body temperature of passengers arriving at the Francisco C. Ada/Saipan International Airport.
At a regular board meeting yesterday at the Port of Saipan conference room, the CPA board of directors unanimously approved the purchase of the full body thermal body scanner, which will be coming from Canada. It is just one equipment that is designed to scan the whole body of a person.
CPA board chair Kimberlyn King-Hinds said in a later interview that a full body thermal body scanner would not stop the coronavirus from infiltrating the CNMI, but it’s one measure that they can take to help fight the spread of the virus.
“Tourism is everybody’s business,” said King-Hinds, adding that buying such an equipment is one way that CPA can contribute to that process.
One of the symptoms of coronavirus infection is fever and the thermal scanners are supposed to detect that. King-Hinds said the full body scanner just basically detects those have elevated body temperatures that are not within the normal range.
The board chair said with the statistics and the data that are coming out with regard to the coronavirus, people appear to be infecting other people without showing any signs of being infected. “So obviously this [scanner] would only detect those people who are [already] showing symptoms. We understand that, but at the end of the day, any form of prevention is good at our borders,” she said.
King-Hinds said they do have challenges with funding but they did think that this was a priority.
She said they are going to figure out the best way to allocate funds and make some cuts in certain operations and expenditures to fund the purchase of the scanner.
She said they are going to meet with Commonwealth Health Care Corp. officials for them to look at the specifications of the item so they can give CPA their technical expertise on the scope or specifications of that equipment.
“This is an emergency sole-source procurement. So we are getting all the documents,” said King-Hinds.
She said CPA will be meeting with CHCC possibly today, Wednesday.
CPA is the one that will be buying the equipment but it will be collaborating with CHCC, which will assign personnel for the scanner. As for CPA, they will spot checks with certain passengers using a specific type of device at the airport.
“We want to be a part of contributing to finding solutions,” King-Hinds said, adding that they are going to have their personnel, specifically Aircraft Rescue and Firefighting personnel, who have the training to be there when people are going through the scanner.
She said they have no target date for the scanner to arrive, but they are hoping it will arrive as soon as possible.