The 2020 Saipan Marathon will go ahead as scheduled.
“The CHCC has advised for the event to move forward because we have in place additional health screening for tourists and runners before entering the event. We have every confidence with CHCC and MVA in ensuring the event remains safe,” said Gov. Ralph DLG Torres after a meeting yesterday with the Marianas Visitors Authority and other stakeholders in this Saturday’s race.
The governor’s decision to move ahead with Saipan Marathon came despite receiving a letter from the House of Representatives, requesting the postponement of the race along with the Tagaman Triathlon due to the growing concerns over COVID-19.
“Based on the serious threat to the health and safety of the residents of the CNMI, as well as potential harm to which the off-island competitors will be exposed, we hereby request that the Marianas Visitors Authority postpone both the 2020 Saipan Marathon and Tagaman Triathlon,” House Speaker Blas Jonathan Attao (R-Saipan) said in a letter to Torres last March 3.
“We understand that there will be serious economic impacts as a result of these postponements, but the consequences of the coronavirus spreading through the Commonwealth will be even more catastrophic and the welfare of the CNMI must always come first,” the letter added.
Saipan Tribune reached out to the speaker to ask comments on the governor’s decision, but he has yet to respond at press time last night.
This year’s Saipan Marathon has drawn more than 700 runners and Saipan Tribune learned that over 100 registered are from South Korea and Japan, which are in the top 10 countries with the most COVID-19 cases recorded.
The CNMI has no COVID-19 case and the governor believes the Commonwealth’s tough screening process of visitors has been effective in preventing the virus from spreading to the islands.
“Since January, we were the first state or territory to put in strict health screening and preventative measures at our ports of entry to prevent tourists who are suspected of having the coronavirus from entering the CNMI. CHCC has been at the airport since January, and the partnership has resulted in fast response actions for suspected cases. So far, these policies have been effective, and the CNMI remains coronavirus-free. We are taking every precautionary measure to properly screen individuals here at home, and our office continues to remain in close communication with the White House and the CDC (Centers for Disease Control) on a daily basis,” said Torres.
The governor will have a press conference tomorrow to discuss the steps the CNMI is taking to address the public’s COVID-19 concerns, while a scanner to be used at the airport has been purchased and the Commonwealth Ports Authority is working on having it air shipped the soonest possible time.
Meanwhile, press secretary Kevin Bautista said that a number of off-island runners have canceled their participation in the Saipan Marathon.
“We have already seen a number of voluntary tourist cancellations, and MVA has noted that the event is also catered to our community because we also have a large number of local residents running. Public health remains a priority for this government, and we will continue to do our due diligence of screening and prevention, while also finding ways to bolster our economy during this unprecedented crisis,” Bautista said.
Despite of some cancelation from off-island participants, MVA managing director Priscilla Iakopo said they are still receiving inquiries for this Saturday’s race.
“The MVA board of directors and management have decided to move forward with the Saipan Marathon as we’ve gained an interest over 700 participants both local and visitors. Despite the registration cut off date on March 6, we are still receiving inquiries from interested runners,” she said.