Coronavirus poses threat to CNMI tourism

9:32 am on 30 January 2020

The Northern Marianas is expected to lose about 50,000 tourists over the rest of the fiscal year after China outlawed outbound tour travel by its citizens.

The restriction is one of the measures put in place to limit the spread of coronavirus.

The flu-like virus has caused 133 deaths in China, almost all in the central province of Hubei. The virus emerged last month in a live wild animal market in the province's capital Wuhan.

Almost 6000 cases have been reported in China. About 60 cases, but no deaths, have been reported in 15 other countries.

A woman wearing a protective mask walks on the street outside Beijing railway station on January 22, 2020.

A woman wearing a protective mask walks on the street outside Beijing railway station on January 22, 2020. Photo: AFP

Before the outbreak, the Marianas Visitors Authority had projected to receive 47,467 visitors from China this year.

The authority said in light of the projected loss it would continue to promote the CNMI in markets like Korea and Japan, emphasising that the territory is a coronavirus-free destination.

Governor Ralph Torres said the health of CNMI residents remained his administration's number one priority.

Meanwhile, American Samoan authorities have reassured the public there are no cases of coronavirus in the territory despite a couple from the United States remaining in quarantine.

The Leone Community Health Center has been turned into a facility to isolate people during the measles outbreak and for the possibility of any Coronavirus patients.

The Director of Health Motusa Tuileama Nua said the couple travelled from Florida on a Hawaiian Airlines flight last week.

However, upon departing they flew through Faleolo Airport in Samoa and health officials there found both were experiencing high fever so they were returned to the territory.

Motusa said they would be kept in quarantine until they were well but he said there was not a case of Coronavirus.

However, samples had been sent to Honolulu for testing.

In a statement, the World Health Organisation said it was working closely with Pacific governments to strengthen their capacity to detect and respond to cases.

"Several Pacific countries have instituted measures at international points of entry to try to mitigate the risk of the virus being imported," a spokesperson said. "In the Pacific, where there are limited air and sea points of entry, this may be an effective measure to mitigate the risk of the diseased being imported.

"However, WHO strongly recommends that countries conduct their own risk assessments and consider public health, social and economic implications of these restrictions before they are applied," it said.

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