US commonwealth islands ban travellers from China over Wuhan virus fears

SAIPAN, Northern Mariana Islands: The Northern Mariana Islands banned all travellers from China and declared a "state of significant emergency" Thursday (Jan 30), as Pacific island states stepped up measures to protect against the coronavirus outbreak.

Although Chinese tourist traffic is a pillar of the economy in the US Pacific commonwealth, Northern Mariana governor Ralph Torres said the new coronavirus "poses a significant and imminent threat".

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MORE: Our coverage on the Wuhan virus and its developments

In China, where the epidemic originated, 170 have died with thousands more infected.

Although no suspected cases of the virus have been recorded in the Northern Marianas, Torres said the risk remained "substantial" due to incubation times.

"I find that the public health threat of a traveller from mainland China carrying the coronavirus is significant and cannot be understated," he said.

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"The Commonwealth Ports Authority shall communicate with all airlines with travellers directly and indirectly from mainland China to suspend the arrival of travellers for the period of this emergency declaration."

Because of the impact the emergency declaration will have on the economy, Torres said he had also ordered an immediate cost-impact analysis on the annual budget.

The Northern Mariana Islands are a self-governing chain of islands that has the US president as head of state.

The Marshall Islands and Palau, other Pacific territories with heavy visitor traffic from China, have also taken steps to restrict access.

READ: Airlines suspend, scale back direct flights to China amid virus fears

Anyone from China, or who has transited through China, must spend at least 14 days in a country not affected by the new coronavirus before they can enter the Marshall Islands.

"In the event a traveller arrives in the MarshalRead More – Source