New protocol for arrivals

Posted on Jul 29 2020

The CNMI will be implementing new protocols come August for arriving travelers based on where they had just come from—whether they come from high-risk or low-risk zones.

Esther Muña, chief executive officer of the Commonwealth Healthcare Corp., hinted at the new protocol, saying it should be out by mid-August. Beside risk zones, the criteria will include positivity and hospitalization rates. She declined to elaborate, saying more details about the new protocols will be released later.

“Let’s say you’re coming in from Florida and you’re traveling to Korea. Even though Korea may be a low-risk area, the fact that you came all the way from Florida [where COVID-19 cases are spiking], those are the things that we need to make the decision to say, ‘No, that would be considered a high-risk [area],” said Muña.

In the same radio briefing, Gov. Ralph DLG Torres said that the CNMI community will also understand that “…it’s going to be a little different.

“I think that our tourists also know that, especially being the first to come into the islands, that it won’t be the same way as our tourists openly enjoyed the Marianas before COVID-19,” he added.

Torres says that they will need to balance the opportunity to bring in the first international flights, as well as monitor where the CNMI is with COVID-19 on the islands as well as the region.

Since the CNMI is considered a low-risk area, Torres said he is looking at every option to open up the borders, particularly because tourism makes up most of the CNMI’s revenue.

“It’s so critical that, when we approach countries, like Korea for example…that we acknowledge that they’ve also done a great job and flattened their curve” and what the CNMI is doing to reciprocate that, he said. Torres said that it’s a cycle “where we need one to provide for the other,” that “we need the hospital, the hospital needs revenue, we need people to work, we need revenue, we need our tourists, so we’re balancing that out.”

Torres added that he will be working alongside CHCC, Muña, and the Governor’s COVID-19 Task Force to help find a balance when the CNMI moves forward in bringing in tourists.

According to Muna, the flights that are coming in are returning residents who are returning from vacation or have work here. “There’s a lot of people that are coming in specifically for work. I mean, there’s a lot of projects happening here in the CNMI,” said Muna. “We have individuals that have come in to take a break here in the CNMI; they consider the CNMI as a safe zone, so they are here, but we hold them to do the same restrictions.”

Muna added that an Asiana Airlines flight that came in yesterday had about 110 passengers, which is not a full flight.

Justine Nauta | Correspondent
Justine Nauta is Saipan Tribune's community and health reporter and has covered a wide range of news beats, including the Northern Marianas College and Commonwealth Health Care Corp. She's currently pursuing a bachelor’s degree in Rehabilitation and Human Services at NMC.
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