Lawmaker reiterates plea: Postpone Saipan Marathon, Tagaman

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REPRESENTATIVE Joseph Leepan T. Guerrero on Friday reiterated his and his colleagues’ request to Gov. Ralph DLG Torres to postpone the 2020 Saipan Marathon and Tagaman 2020 Triathlon that are scheduled for March 14 and 21.

Guerrero sai, “We need to be mindful” of the threat of Covid-19.

“I don’t know why this governor continues to insist that we should move forward with these events,” he added. “I don’t want to say to the governor ‘I told you so’ in the event of coronavirus case on this island.”

If the sporting events are not postponed, Guerrero said, “I just hope that all the participants will be screened thoroughly and monitored closely when they arrive.”

The Marianas Visitors Authority board on Monday last week decided to push through with the Saipan Marathon.

MVA Executive Director Priscilla Iakopo said about 700 individuals, including from Japan, had already registered for the event. Japan is now the CNMI’s remaining tourism market in light of flight cancelations from China and South Korea.

But a source in the tourism industry said over 100 registered participants from Japan had already cancelled their trip to Saipan.

Asked for comment, the governor said: “Since January, we were the first state or territory to put in strict health screening and preventative measures at our ports of entry to prevent tourists who are suspected of having the coronavirus from entering the CNMI. The Commonwealth Healthcare Corp. has been at the airport since January, and the partnership has resulted in fast response actions for suspected cases. So far, these policies have been effective, and the CNMI remains coronavirus-free. Regarding the marathon, CHCC has advised for the event to move forward as well because we have in place additional health screening for tourists and runners before entering the event. We have every confidence with CHCC and MVA in ensuring the event remains safe. We are taking every precautionary measure to properly screen individuals here at home, and our office continues to remain in close communication with the White House and the CDC on a daily basis. Our coronavirus task force will be conducting public outreach on Saipan, Tinian, and Rota very soon, and we’ll have additional updates on our work this week.”

Press Secretary Kevin Bautista, for his part, said:

“Governor Torres was the first governor in the country to prioritize health when the coronavirus outbreak started to make waves in mainland China. Under his leadership, CHCC, MVA, and our first responder agencies have implemented the first local preventative measures in the country to screen passengers and track factors from their travel history to their seat on the plane so that healthcare workers can conduct quarantine and isolation protocol if necessary. We have already seen a number of voluntary tourist cancellations, and MVA has noted that the event is also catered to our community because we also have a large number of local residents running. Public health remains a priority for this government, and we will continue to do our due diligence of screening and prevention, while also finding ways to bolster our economy during this unprecedented crisis. The administration is looking into information technology, financial services, and other industries. We hope that members of the Legislature can join our collective efforts with the private sector to provide solutions to our economic challenges as well because taking care of our residents also mean providing for their ability to take care of themselves and their families.”

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