Governor eases restrictions but eyes extension of emergency directive
With some restrictions remaining in place, restaurants on Guam will resume dine-in service beginning Friday, public facilities will reopen and quarantine requirements for arriving passengers will be eased as the government prepares for the gradual reopening of tourism on July 1.
But while lifting some restrictions that were put in place in response to the Covid-19 pandemic, Gov. Lou Leon Guerrero said she is likely to extend the public health emergency declaration for another 30 days upon its expiration on June 5.
The governor first declared public emergency on March 14, entailing the temporary shutdown of senior citizen centers, the closure of road clusters, the suspension of open government law and the approval of procurement without public biddings. The declaration has been extended twice.
“We are looking at possibly extending it because in order for us to again react to the community and react to the urgency, we still need to be in public health emergency,” the governor said.
Leon Guerrero said the extension of her directive is imperative to allow the government to continue implementing certain restrictions aimed at curbing the spread the coronavirus as Guam prepares to move from PCOR 2 to PCOR 3.
At the same time, she added, keeping the state of public emergency allows Guam to continue receiving assistance from the Federal Emergency Management Administration.
The Guam Department of Public Health and Social Services has issued a new guidance pertaining to minimum requirements for dine-in restaurants, which have been serving only takeouts since the public health emergency was issued.
Under the new guidance, which takes effect at 8 a.m to Friday, “Dine-in restaurants are able to operate with required additional measures in order to reduce the risk of the spread of Covid-19."
Salad bars, buffets and self-service operations of any kind, however, remain prohibited at this time. Outdoor dining is allowed and recommended, according the department.
“We wanted our industry to be prepared and we wanted to signal this to them so that they can begin preparations to again bring back our tourism industry. I am informed that in the market, it takes anywhere from 30 to 45 days of lead time in order for us to start again booking business and visits to Guam,” the governor said at Wednesday’s press conference.
“After meeting with the Physicians Advisory Group and economy advisory group, I am announcing further relaxation of restrictions during PCOR 2 and the conditional reopening of Guam’s tourism markets from South Korea, Japan and Korea effective July 1,” she added.
The newfound optimism was incited by Japan's lifting of its health emergency earlier this week and Korean Airlines' resumption of flights in June.
Leon Guerrero said the Guam Visitors Bureau is exploring new marketing strategies to draw tourists back to Guam. “They are going to be working with their market contacts and looking at how we attract and incentivize the market to come,” she said “They are mindful of the fact that, in the beginning, we are not going to have a huge amount of tourist coming in.”
As part of the new guidance, which has yet to be finalized, visitors from Japan, South Korea, and Taiwan will no longer be subject to the mandatory 14-day quarantine.
“We are not going to require testing and we will be most likely adhere to home quarantine for our returning residents,” the governor said.
Details of the new quarantine protocols will be released this weekend, she said.
Although the Covid-19 pandemic has paralyzed tourism, the governor said, its economic impact was not as severe as initially projected.
“I don’t see a big, big, big loss in our revenues,” she said. The Consolidated Revenue Expenditure Report at the end of this fiscal year indicated “a negative $4-point some million,” the governor said.
Uninterrupted government spending and military construction have kept the economy going, she said.
The government will also reopen public parks and beaches and allow social gatherings of up to 25 people.
To date, there have been 171 cases confirmed through Covid-19 testing provided with 5 deaths, 143 released from isolation, and 23 active cases.
“If, at any point, we see an increase in cases, I will not hesitate to re-implement social isolation measures. I will not jeopardize human life and risk, an even longer period of recovery,” the governor said.