The Commonwealth remains under a State of Significant Emergency, following acting governor Arnold I. Palacios’ issuance of an executive order last Friday that extended the original emergency declaration.
The state of significant emergency will remain in effect for 30 days, unless terminated by the governor.
Torres first issued the emergency declaration on Jan. 29, 2020, and was effective for 30 days. The continued declaration of the state of significant emergency is to sustain the established response, quarantine, and preventive containment measures concerning the coronavirus, or COVID-19, outbreak.
To date, 64 countries and territories around the world have been affected by COVD-19, with a total of 86,033 confirmed COVID-19 cases, and 2,942 recorded deaths.
“COVID-19 poses a significant and imminent threat of harm to the community, environment and people of the CNMI and this emergency declaration is issued in order to respond, quarantine and ensure the prevention of or containment of COVID-19 in the CNMI,” Palacios said in Executive Order 2020-02 l.
Under the extended declaration, Palacios instructed the Commonwealth Health Care Corp., Commonwealth Ports Authority, the CNMI Customs Division, and the Marianas Visitors Authority to undertake immediate emergency COVID-19 containment measures.
“This declaration is necessary to protect the health and safety of our children, our senior citizens, businesses, and all other CNMI residents and visitors,” the order stated.
Under the state of significant emergency, CHCC is to coordinate with CPA, MVA, Customs, and other government agencies to develop and implement protocols, quarantine measures, and increased monitoring and controls at all airports and seaports in the CNMI, as to screening all arriving travelers, passengers, and cargo for COVID-19.
This may include bolstering staff and resources at airports and seaports to screen all arrivals from Japan and South Korea, as well as implementing COVID-19 surveillance activities at hotels, bed and breakfasts, and other forms of lodging for tourists.
CPA and MVA have also been tasked to coordinate efforts for the repatriation of tourists stranded in the CNMI.
Moreover, the secretary of Finance and the special assistant for Management and Budget have been directed to continue monitoring the fiscal impact of the suspension of flights from China, and the reduction of flights from Korea, on the fiscal year 2020 budget and to provide a weekly report to the governor and/or the lieutenant governor.
The administration has been keeping a tight watch on the CNMI borders, to prevent the virus from coming into the islands, especially given that the CNMI’s main tourism market, China, South Korea, and Japan, all fall under the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s alert level due to the countries’ high number of COVID-19 cases.
Torres’ chief of staff, Angel Demapan, said that tourists are dwindling down, with passenger load factors severely decreased due to the greater impact of the virus on the three countries, and that there are almost no arrivals of containers from affected countries at CNMI seaports.
As an added safety measure, the CPA is procuring a full body scanner that could detect thermal body temperature of people entering the CNMI. This is on top of the ongoing screening and monitoring of inbound passengers at airports and all ports of entry.
Last Jan. 31, President Donald J. Trump issued a proclamation suspending entry of all aliens who have been to China, excluding Hong Kong and Macau, into the United States, during the 14-day period preceding their entry or attempted entry into the U.S., subject to certain exceptions.
Prior to Trump’s declaration, Gov. Ralph DLG Torres, last Jan. 29, already issued Executive Order 2020-01, placing the CNMI under a state of significant emergency, in relation to the new coronavirus. A day after, the International Health Regulations Committee of the World Health Organizations declared the COVID-19 outbreak a public health emergency of international concern.
The government has been engaging with federal partners, participating in conference calls with the White House administration and the National Governors Association, with CHCC also in contact with the CDC, to maximize all efforts in response to the COVD-19 outbreak.
To date, the CNMI remains coronavirus-free.