The CNMI has set a target date of July 15 to reopen the CNMI to tourists, but that is not set in stone and there are many moving parts that are still being addressed leading up to that date.
Speaking at a radio news briefing yesterday, Gov. Ralph DLG Torres clarified that the July 15 date is the goal but that date is a moving target. “Our goal is to hit July 15, and if we make it, excellent. If not, it’s a moving target date. The most important is to make sure that our tourist partners understands, we have an understanding, on how to approach our new tourism industry here,” he said.
The CNMI government is also working with the CNMI’s partners in Japan and South Korea to address concerns. “There’s a lot of moving factors that needs to be addressed before we get there. It’s not as simple as opening up and hope that they come. There’s a strong collaboration,” he added.
With Skymark Airlines Inc.’s recent announcement that their flights will be moved to the end of July, Torres said that there is more time for the community to adjust and feel safe about the reopening of the CNMI.
He said that the COVID-19 Task Force, and the Commonwealth Healthcare Corp., together with his Economic Recovery team, have been working on looking into where the community stands in relation to the COVID-19 mass testing, the community’s vulnerability level, and what directives should and can be alleviated.
New directives too fast?
When asked whether the lifting of restrictions are happening too fast, with the CNMI jumping two steps from Red to Yellow on the color-coded community vulnerability scale, CHCC chief executive officer Esther Muña said, “It’s actually not too fast. …The restrictions are still there.”
Muña highlighted what the community has collectively accomplished to help mitigate the spread of COVID-19 on island, in terms of social distancing, sanitation, wearing of masks, and taking the test.
“It took a lot of thinking about what can we do, and how can we ensure the public that they are safe. A lot of it is also monitoring and checking and making sure that there are actually penalties…if you don’t follow,” she said. “Those restrictions are there for a reason. Again, it can always be taken back. …If you have to go back to red, if that’s what’s going to happen, then we’re going to have to go back to even stricter directives. That’s what we’re going to do.”
The CHCC CEO also said that the directives are also about how many people are being tested and how prevalent COVID-19 is in the community.
As for businesses, Muña said that meetings with the Saipan Chamber of Commerce had been happening, focusing on social distancing and sanitation that they need to implement as they resume operations.
“Some of these establishments already practice using that guidance. Most, if not all of them, already are practicing it so we will continue to provide that support for them. We’re available. The Bureau of Environmental Health is there working with them, making sure that they understand what is required,” she added.
Torres assured that, compared with neighboring territories and the rest of the United States, the CNMI has the strictest directives in place. “Our growth and our lifting of directive is based on our success and progress as a community. Everyone, [including] our private partners, have a stake into reopening CNMI. …I strongly believe that we’re moving in the right direction and [at] the right pace.”