The CNMI Division of Customs took to social media and other platforms yesterday in a bid to clear up unfounded rumors about shipping vessels being unable to enter the Commonwealth.
Jose C. Mafnas, director of the Division of Customs, said that despite the COVID-19 outbreak, they will continue to assist progress of all trade at all ports of entries.
“Customs continues to facilitate trade at all the port of entries by conducting clearance on all ocean vessels, which includes the assessment of manifests and all documents on arriving vessels and cargos,” he said.
Mafnas concedes that they do anticipate delays in the upcoming months because of COVID-19, but there is no reason for panic-buys.
Mafnas stated that although shipments are steady, the CNMI needs to be realistic and the impact of the coronavirus is uncertain and for everyone to be prepared for the upcoming months.
On Saipan, there was a rumor going around that some stores have run out of butane gas and noodles, thinking it could be COVID-19-related. When asked about this, a Joeten supermarket supervisor, who wishes to remain anonymous, was quick to shoot that down, saying it’s just part of their weekly sale. She added that butane is always on sale for $2.99 every week.
A 99 Cent Supermarket manager was also quick to clarify that their increased sales is because it was payday and not COVID-19 related.
Within the past decade, the CNMI has been at risk for many diseases such as Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome, dengue fever, and now COVID-19, which has prompted the suspension of China flights to and from the CNMI.
In 2002-2003, the CNMI faced a similar threat with SARS, which also caused an accelerated drop in tourism numbers. In 2005, the CNMI was vulnerable to the bird flu virus that affected most of the Southeast Asian countries which, yet again, caused the island to be on the front row of defense from the then-potential epidemic. Ten years later, in 2015, the CNMI faced another infectious outbreak which was the Ebola virus and the Middle Eastern coronavirus, MERS-CoV.