Travel bubble is premature


Taking into account the obvious great success of the CNMI’s efforts to control the SARS-CoV-2 virus (along with the Commonwealth’s vaccination program/high rate of vaccinations), opening a cooperative tourism travel bubble with the Republic of Korea (South Korea) is entirely premature.

South Korea is currently experiencing a new wave of novel coronavirus infections which includes the hyper-transmissible Delta viral variant. Nearly 800 cases were reported for just this past Tuesday alone.

As most everyone knows, the CNMI cannot afford, in both terms of human loss/suffering and possessing a health care system that could be quickly overwhelmed, to gamble with allowing the Delta variant to gain a foothold in the islands. All it takes is one infected person slipping through testing and entry controls to start a possibly horrible cascade. Let’s be honest here in acknowledging testing is not infallible nor is vaccination a guarantee of not being able of infecting others.

I also respectfully suggest considering not allowing any unvaccinated visitors from Japan be allowed to visit the CNMI as the current situation, particularly since Tokyo is far from being under control—current test positivity rates support that assertion. There were over 900 cases reported Wednesday in the Japanese capital. A new state of emergency is to be declared Thursday and the Olympics are reportedly going to be held without any spectators.

These suggestions are made in order of hoping to protect the people of the CNMI. As an American and having previously visited Saipan and Tinian (and planning to make Saipan my home in the near future), I care about the citizens and communities that make up the Commonwealth. I understand the important role of international tourism in the local economy and by no means am I saying to never welcome back visitors to your beautiful and hospitable islands, I’m simply making the recommendation (based upon science, common sense and my understanding of the evolving nature of the global pandemic) that the present is not the time. Hopefully soon it will be, but not now.

Mark Farmer
US Coast Guard, ret.
Tokyo, Japan

Contributing Author

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