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Governor, MVA, CHCC brief businesses on coronavirus outbreak

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GOVERNOR Ralph DLG Torres, Marianas Visitor Authority marketing manager Thomas Kim, and Commonwealth Healthcare Corp.-Public Health and Preparedness Program coordinator BJ Nicholas on Wednesday briefed members of the business community about the 2019 novel coronavirus outbreak.

Commonwealth Healthcare Corp.’s Public Health and Preparedness Program coordinator BJ Nicholas makes a Power-Point presentation during the Saipan Chamber of Commerce general membership meeting at Kanoa Resort on Wednesday.  Photo by Emmanuel T. Erediano
From left, Commonwealth Healthcare Corp. Chief Executive Officer Esther Muna, Board of Education Chairwoman Janice A. Tenorio, CHCC Public Health and Preparedness Director Warren Villagomez and program coordinator BJ Nicholas pose for photo during the Saipan Chamber of Commerce general membership meeting at Kanoa Resort on Wednesday.  Photo by Emmanuel T. Erediano

Kim provided numerical figures on the impact on the tourism industry not only of the CNMI but also of the U.S.

The airlines that have suspended flights from China are Hong Kong Express, Sichuan Airlines, China Eastern, and Beijing Capital Airlines, Kim reported.

He added that more than 18,500 charter flight bookings from Jan. 22 to March 29 have been cancelled.

Nicholas, for his part, discussed what CHCC has done and is still doing in response to the coronavirus outbreak.

He said there has been an increased coordination among CHCC, MVA and the Commonwealth Ports Authority to “solidify a plan of action” in case suspected cases may enter the CNMI.

He said as of Wednesday, the CNMI had no confirmed case of the novel coronavirus.

In his remarks, Governor Torres said that on Jan. 20, “the CNMI was the first U.S. state or territory to locally take proactive action and preventative measures against the coronavirus and any other illnesses.”

He said, “Through the leadership of the Commonwealth Healthcare Corp. and its CEO Esther Muna, the CNMI began health screening passengers to ensure that no tourist with the coronavirus entered the CNMI.”

In collaboration with the Commonwealth Ports Authority and the U.S. Customs and Border Protection, Muna and her team set up quarantine and isolation units at the airport to treat sick or suspected passengers upon entering our islands, the governor said.

“As of today [Wednesday] there are no suspected or confirmed cases of coronavirus in the CNMI,” the governor added.

He reiterated that “public health is our priority, and the safety and security of our people will take precedence over anything else.”

His executive order last week, he added, “sent shockwaves through our federal partners, and I received calls from Washington, D.C. to discuss our local emergency and quarantine measures against the coronavirus.”

“We are cognizant that we need to continue our work on surveillance and screening,” the governor added. “Through CHCC and MVA, we are mandating every inbound passenger to fill out a health declaration form, along with their usual Customs form, when they enter the CNMI. We will continue to protect our borders, while also mobilizing our local resources for our CHCC medical team to quarantine individuals suspected of having the coronavirus.”

At the same time, “we know that our economy is taking a major hit. But it’s not just us. Almost every economy in the Asia-Pacific region is negatively affected by the loss of Chinese tourism. Early projections show that we are set to lose at least $40 million in revenue and, as a government, my administration is working with the Legislature to adapt and make adjustments now. But let me say this: The policy decisions I make have always been in the best interest of our economy and for our people,” the governor said.

November 2020 pssnewsletter

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