(Updated: The CNMI on Saturday recorded its first two Covid-19 positive cases)
Saipan-- In an effort to prevent the spread of Covid-19 into the commonwealth islands, the CNMI government vows strict enforcement of its quarantine policy for all incoming passengers, warning that violators will be sent behind bars.
"Given the importance of protecting our small island community, CHCC will work with the Governor’s COVID-19 Task Force and local law enforcement to enforce penalties on noncompliance of the mandatory 14-day quarantine requirement for arriving travelers," the CNMI Office of the Press Secretary stated in an announcement "Violators of this important protective measure will receive a maximum of no more than a year imprisonment and/or no more than a $500 fine, as provided under law."
CNMI Gov. Ralph Torres' executive order put in place the 14-day quarantine mandate for all incoming passengers, which went into effect on March 23.
Incoming travelers are also enrolled into the Text Illness Monitoring system, which alerts CHCC staff when enrollees report symptoms.
Individuals who present a health certificate certifying that they tested negative for Covid -19 in the previous 72 hours may be considered for exemption from quarantine. The CNMI government but this certificate must be reviewed at the quarantine site.
"Only health certificates, issued by a recognized health agency, indicating that the individual was tested negative for Covid-19 will be honored. For example, travelers from Guam must present a health certificate indicating a negative test for Covid-19 issued by the Guam Department of Public Health and Social Services within 72 hours of travel. A health certificate alone does not guarantee exemption. All individuals, even those requesting exemption, must go to the quarantine site after arriving in Saipan.
The CNMI Office of the Press Secretary issued the following FAQ sheet:
Quarantine in a facility for 14 days is necessary because exposure to COVID-19 may not become apparent until 14 days after a person is infected. This is also known as the “incubation period” of the disease. Travelers coming into the CNMI from COVID-19 affected areas, such as Guam, Hawaii, Korea, China, Japan, and the Philippines, may have been exposed to the disease. For the protection of the public, these individuals which may have been exposed are quarantined and closely monitored for the full incubation period to prevent the spread of the disease.
What is quarantine?
Quarantine is when the movement of an individual, or a group of individuals, is limited after possible exposure to a communicable disease, for a time period equal to the longest incubation period of the disease. This is done to prevent transmission of a disease to others. In the case of COVID-19, this is especially important if an individual is coughing or sneezing. Tiny droplets of fluid from a cough or sneeze can land on surfaces touched by others, and get into healthy people’s eyes, nose, and mouth which make them sick.
I’m scheduled to fly into Saipan soon. What should I expect?
All incoming travelers and their luggage will be escorted by staff of the Commonwealth Office of Transportation Authority, the CNMI Office of Homeland Security & Emergency Management , Department of Fire and Emergency Management Systems, Department of Cultural and Community Affairs , Department of Public Safety, Department of Finance-Division of Customs, and Commerce-Alcoholic Beverage and Tobacco Control directly from the airport to a local hotel serving as the designated quarantine facility. All customs processes and health screening will take place on site at the quarantine facility.
Any health certificates held by travelers will be reviewed, and any symptoms checked and documented by medical personnel on site. From there, persons under orders to quarantine will be checked into the hotel and given details on their stay. Because the purpose of strict quarantine is to reduce the risk of disease transmission, people under orders to quarantine cannot see family or friends in person during their quarantine, however each room is equipped with internet and telephone service, and people under orders to quarantine are encouraged to communicate with family and friends often. Interaction with loved ones is protective of physical and mental health.
Meals will be provided to all those under orders to quarantine, and any special dietary needs or allergies should be communicated at check-in. Friends and family members may drop off items at the quarantine facility during hours designated by the CNMI Homeland Security. Incoming travelers are strongly discouraged from travelling with any items that require refrigeration.
I am a healthcare worker; do I have to be quarantined?
All new and returning healthcare workers (HCW) will be assessed according to the CHCC Healthcare Worker COVID-19 Screening Protocol. This protocol is initiated at the quarantine facility. Due to the severity of COVID-19, CHCC needs all HCWs to be available for the community. Coupled with our continuous shortage of health workers, CHCC, with consultation from regional experts, developed this protocol to allow for the medical clearance of HCWs. HCWs who present a certificate from a recognized health agency indicating a negative COVID-19 test in the last 72 hours of travel and are asymptomatic will be allowed by the CHCC medical team to exit the quarantine location. Asymptomatic HCWs without a valid certificate will be enrolled into a strict daily monitoring plan by the CHCC health team and also allowed to exit. Any symptomatic HCWs will be ordered into quarantine.
Are unaccompanied minors (under 18) exempt from quarantine?
Minors who travel unaccompanied will undergo quarantine at the designated site if they do not have a health certificate. One parent or legal guardian will be allowed to stay with the minor at the designated site.