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  • Writer's pictureBy Bea Cabrera

New travel-linked Covid cases prompt CNMI to tighten border protocol

By Bea Cabrera

Saipan- The CNMI currently logs in a total of 243 Covid-19 positive cases and two deaths since March last year. No hospital admission has been reported.

The latest Covid-19 positive case was confirmed on Aug. 31 through travel screening.

The CNMI remains a level 1 (low risk) destination, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention.

In June, the Commonwealth Health Care Corp. allowed verified-vaccinated incoming travelers to exit the airport and go straight to their home or lodging after completing the mandatory health declaration form at least 72 hours prior to arrival and after their lodging or home passes assessment.

Two months later, this protocol was set aside, and according to an Aug. 19 press release, all inbound travelers are required to quarantine in a designated facility for five days.

All travelers will be tested twice for Covid-19-first, upon arrival and the second will be on their fifth day in quarantine. In the event a negative result on the fifth day, traveler will be sent home.

With the delta variant spreading fast in many parts of mainland and Asia, the Office of the Governor and the CNMI Covid-19 Task Force took a step back on the home quarantine option for inbound travelers.

The exemption of going into designated quarantine facility now applies only to critical or essential workers if their request is granted by the CNMI territorial health officer.

The protocol includes completing the CNMI mandatory declaration form on-line within 72 hours prior to arrival and request will be evaluated based on work justification, where worker came from, negative PCR test results fated not more than 72 hours upon arrival.

If request is granted, they are required to practice Covid-19 precautions at all times and abide with other establishments safety and health protocols.

With 78.3 percent of eligible population fully vaccinated and no reports of community transmission, people still practice mask wearing, washing of hands and social distancing.

Meanwhile, the travel bubble agreement between the CNMI and Korea is still ongoing.

The travel bubble brings a limited number of tourists from South Korea to Saipan and are free to roam around in a designated quarantine hotel, restaurants and tourist spots.

The CNMI government believes that opening that window for tourists to come in will somehow help the economy recover from the losses the CNMI have incurred since the pandemic started in March last year.

Participants in the travel bubble also undergo health and safety protocols upon arrival and during stay in the CNMI.

According to Joe Guerrero, president of the Saipan Chamber of Commerce, the business sector is closely monitoring the development of delta variant.

“It feels like this is another set back. Before delta, we were opening more of the economy before the end of the year but now, experts are saying add three to six months to that and so from 2022 we are looking at 2023," Guerrero said. "We are looking for ways to support each other and keep our borders safe."

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