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NMI to reopen for tourism on July 15

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THE CNMI Community-Focused Economic Recovery Plan was unveiled Wednesday by Gov. Ralph DLG Torres, Commonwealth Healthcare Corp. Chief Executive Officer Esther Muna, and the governor’s Covid-19 Task Force Chairman Warren Villagomez at Fiesta Resort.

The plan, which calls for the reopening of the CNMI for tourism on July 15, is a product of the combined efforts of the governor’s economic task force, which is composed of officials with various government agencies, the Hotel Association of the Northern Mariana Islands, the Marianas Visitors Authority, the Saipan Chamber of Commerce, as well as business leaders from the Japanese, Korean, and Chinese communities.

In his opening statement, Tan Holdings Vice President for Corporate Business Development Alex Sablan said the plan calls for the reopening of the economy, but “gradually, keeping safety in mind.”

 

From left, Tan Holdings executive Alex Sablan, economic consultant Matt Deleon Guerrero, Covid-19 Task Force Chairman Warren Villagomez, Gov. Ralph DLG Torres, and Commonwealth Healthcare Corp. Chief Executive Officer Esther Muna conduct a media conference at Fiesta Resort in Garapan on Wednesday. Photo by K-Andrea Evarose S. Limol

Economic consultant Matt Deleon Guerrero then walked the audience through the plan, reiterating that its aim is to create “a pathway toward resumption of economic activity that provides confidence and safety for the community, developing guidance and requirements for business establishments to safely operate in a Covid world, building mechanisms and leveraging existing capacity for monitoring [of] or enforcing compliance [with] new operating procedures.”

He said health guidance and requirements — notably the Commonwealth’s community testing initiative — play an important role in the implementation of the economic recovery plan.

The plan is expected to be costly, but it is “a small price to pay” to ensure the safety of the community and the tourists themselves, Sablan said.

“It is our intent to ask the governor to require that there be thermal imaging within large corridors. We are asking for the cooperation of the business community when we start to look at mandating thermal imaging within large business corridors and public spaces,” Sablan said.

He added, “We are talking about asking people to take temperatures at doorways, provide hand sanitizers, and sanitize facility surfaces. We will never be Covid-free, but we can be as close to Covid-free as possible. We are hopeful that we can get this plan going. We will continue to work with the Covid-19 Task Force to modify this plan, depending on where we land with the actual tests themselves.”

Sablan said, “We want to ensure that all of these mitigation measures are put in place…to ensure that our people feel relatively safe…. We, as well as every jurisdiction in the United States and around the world, are all trying to get our economies going so people can be gainfully employed and our people can get back to work.”

Torres, for his part, said: “I ask that we continue to support our business partners once we open up. I know that there will be a lot of requirements that [businesses] will have to do, whether it's testing their employees or making adjustments to their business application. As we move forward, we need to embrace them.”

He added, “The community has been very receptive to the [Covid-19] directives, and that is the reason why the number of our cases are very low. It is not because of the governor or our CHCC CEO or task force chairman. It is because of every member of the community.”

Muna said even for mom and pop businesses, the plan’s proposed safety measures do not have to be costly. “They can be able to do things in a cheaper way. It can be costly, but it can also be manageable.”

Villagomez noted, “There are a lot of these things [safety measures] that we are doing now, which is why we are all safe. Basically, we are doing it already.”

 

 

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