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NMI ready for newly arrived passengers

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MEDIA representatives on Saturday were given the opportunity to see firsthand the process by which frontline staff receive inbound passengers arriving at the Francisco C. Ada/Saipan International Airport and transporting them to the quarantine facility at Pacific Islands Club.

The Commonwealth has been receiving inbound flights three days a week on Mondays, Thursdays and Saturdays, with the United flight from Guam on Saturday arriving at approximately 8 a.m. with roughly 60 passengers, majority of whom are returning residents.

They were led straight from the plane to the Commonwealth Office of Transit Authority buses for transport to the quarantine facility. No passenger or frontline staff set foot inside the airport other than airport personnel.

All frontline staff involved throughout the process wore personal protective equipment or PPE, which included gowns, N95 face masks, protective boots and gloves.

 

Frontline staff load returning residents’ luggage onto COTA vehicles after the arrival of a United Airlines flight from Guam on Saturday at the Saipan airport. Photo by K-Andrea Evarose S. Limol

Frontline staff were assigned to each vehicle to escort the passengers, while frontline staff from the Division of Customs, COTA, as well as airport employees loaded passengers’ luggage onto separate transport vehicles.

Police escorts from the Department of Public Safety were at the front and the rear of the transport line to direct traffic and ensure that the COTA buses arrive at the quarantine facility as quickly and safely as possible.

Department of Fire and Emergency Medical Services public information officer and Covid-19 task force member Robert Mojica was on duty at the quarantine facility on Saturday and explained to reporters the process of receiving inbound passengers at the site.

After arriving at PIC, he said, passengers go through the Customs procedure as well as a health screening before being led to their isolation rooms to undergo the mandatory five-day quarantine.

If a passenger tests negative, he or she is released. If a passenger tests positive, he or she is brought to the alternate care site facility at Kanoa Resort for further isolation and observation.

A separate group of frontline staff from DFEMS waited in the distance at a “kill box,” which is a decontamination station in which personnel who come into contact with inbound passengers are sprayed down with a solution of water and disinfecting bleach.

Mojica said there are kill boxes at multiple areas on-site.

After being sprayed down with the solution and disposing of their used PPE, frontline staff move to a different station to sanitize their hands.

All transport vehicles are decontaminated as well after every trip, said Special Assistant for Public Transportation Alfreda Camacho, who, for her part, noted that the number of personnel that run the operation depends on the number of inbound passengers.

“As soon as we know, which is usually the morning of [the inbound flight], then we go ahead and plan out how many drivers and vehicles we’re going to need,” she said, noting that about 20 personnel and 18 transport vehicles from COTA were a part of the process on Saturday.

She added that multiple agencies are also involved in the process, including the Commonwealth Ports Authority, the K-9 Unit, DFEMS, DPS, the Department of Community and Cultural Affairs, Division of Customs, the Department of Corrections and CHCC.

“Overall, you can see that this is a united front. This is why we are out here. We take precautionary measures to make sure that we are safe for all of you, because in the end, we are all in this together,” she said as she thanked community members for their continued patience, understanding, and overwhelming support for the frontline staff.

 

 

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