• By Pacific island Times News Staff

CNMI seeking to impose ban on Chinese tourists


Saipan-- CNMI Gov. Ralph Torres on Wednesday issued an executive order seeking to suspend travelers from mainland China from flying into the CNMI, strengthening ongoing emergency protocols and quarantine measures at the ports .due to coronavirus threat.

Torres issued an executive order on Wednesday in response to the threat of the coronavirus (nCoV) originating from Wuhan City, Hubei Province, People’s Republic of China.

The executive order directed the Commonwealth Ports Authority (CPA) to seek to suspend travelers from mainland China arriving directly and indirectly into the CNMI.

This process will be done in collaboration with the airlines, U.S. Department of Transportation, U.S. Federal Aviation Administration, and the US Department of Homeland Security.

Under federal regulations, the CNMI does not have the authority to stop travelers from China from flying to the CNMI without federal consent.

Torres also strengthened the Commonwealth Healthcare Corporation’s (CHCC) ongoing public health emergency protocols, quarantine measures, and other increased monitoring and controls at all CNMI ports of entry in collaboration with CPA and the CNMI Division of Customs.

As of Jan. 29, there are no suspected or confirmed coronavirus cases in the CNMI.

“Public health is our priority, and the safety and security of our people will take precedence over anything else,” Torres said.

Torres noted that the administration remains confident that the precautionary measures implemented by CNMI government agencies will ensure proper screening for the coronavirus, he said that this decision to issue an executive order is a precautionary measure.

“I am issuing the emergency declaration out of an abundance of caution to ensure that the CNMI stays safe and that we minimize the potential exposure of our people to this highly communicable virus. I ask that our industry partners collaborate and cooperate with the CNMI to protect the health and well-being of our people,” he added.

Because of the potential loss of tourists, Torres has directed the Department of Finance and the Office of Management and Budget to undertake an immediate cost-impact analysis and make recommendations for adjustments to the FY 2020 budget.

This analysis will be given to the Legislature for consideration and consultation as needed. “Economies across the Asia-Pacific region are already bracing for reduced tourist arrivals from China due to this outbreak, and as a government, we have to adapt and make adjustments with our Legislature,” Torres said.

“Finance and OMB have already started making their assessments, and we will look at making a determination with the Legislature on the potential impact on the FY 2020 budget, as well as projections for the FY 2021 budget.”

“As I mentioned in Tuesday’s MVA meeting, this administration committed itself to diversifying our economy by revitalizing our Japanese tourism market through Skymark Airlines. This was a big win for the Marianas, and I, along with MVA will continue to aggressively market the Marianas as a featured, coronavirus-free tourist destination.”

The administration continues to monitor the outbreak and receive updates, and maintaining constant engagement with global health partners such as the World Health Organization and federal partners such as the US Department of Health and Human Services – Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on the containment of the virus.

“As we continue to monitor this situation, we encourage our visitors from our other Asian source markets to come and enjoy our beautiful islands and our warm hospitality,” Torres said.

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