Vessels violate virus entry restrictions

All in-bound passengers arriving at Amata Kabua International Airport are screened for both measles vaccine documentation and the coronavirus by Ministry of Health and Human Services personnel. Photo: Giff Johnson.

The Ministry of Health called for cooperation among port-related staff after two inbound vessels, with the aid of Ports Authority officials, violated established screening procedures for measles and coronavirus.

In a memo Monday, Health Secretary Jack Niedenthal reminded Ministry of T&C, Ports Authority, RMI shipping agents and pilots who captain vessels into port that “we are trying to prevent a dangerous disease from entering our borders. This requires everyone’s cooperation.”

In addition to seeking cooperation, Niedenthal warned the ports-related officials, “the next time this happens we will be fining the sea vessel, relevant shipping agent, RMI Ports Authority and the RMI sea pilots responsible for these violations.” If pilots again bring vessels into port in violation of the current measles and coronavirus travel advisories, the Ministry of Health will seek to suspend or revoke their pilot licenses, he said.

The recent violations of the two travel advisories “threaten the lives of the people of the Marshall Islands and will not be tolerated again,” he said.
The latest travel advisory states that there is now a suspension of all persons, traveling via air or sea, from the coronavirus-affected countries — People’s Republic of China (PRC), Hong Kong, Macau — for 30 days until March 2.

“This means any and all sea vessels that have originated from — or that have traveled through — any of these countries are prohibited from docking, and the crew from disembarking, in the RMI,” Niedenthal said in a memo to local shipping agents that handle incoming vessels, from fishing boats to container ships.

In the wake of the World Health Organization declaring the new novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV) to be a Public Health Emergency of International Concern, both the Federated States of Micronesia and the Marshall Islands issued expanded travel bans January 31.
FSM President David Panuelo signed a public health emergency declaration that bans travel by Micronesian citizens to China “and other countries with confirmed cases of coronavirus until further notice and until such time that a determination is made that the coronarivus is effectively contained.”

The Marshall Islands, which was one of the first countries in the region to issue a travel advisory banning direct travel from China on January 24, on Friday expanded the travel ban to include Macau and Hong Kong.

“All government of the Marshall Islands and sponsored official trips to be suspended to affected countries effective immediately until further notice, with the exception of patients approved by the RMI Medical Referral Committee,” said the new travel advisory issued by Niedenthal January 31.

“These are interim travel restrictions, introduced to allow the Government of Marshall Islands to implement health emergency preparedness measures at points of entry, (and) to support the future rapid detection and containment of any 2019-nCoV cases,” said Niedenthal.

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