80 stranded tourists in CNMI sent back to China

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CNMI Governor Ralph DLG Torres said the decision by Hong Kong Express to cut its flights to the CNMI was made "hastily and without notice."

Most of the 130 Chinese tourists stranded on Saipan have already been sent back to China, according to a report from the Marianas Variety.

The tourists were left in the commonwealth after Hong Kong Express Airways suspended its CNMI operations earlier this month without prior notice.

Commonwealth Ports Authority Chairwoman Kimberlyn King-Hinds said that of the 130 tourists stranded on Saipan due to the coronavirus outbreak in China, about 80 have been repatriated, but “issues” remain with those who are still on island, especially the individuals from Wuhan.

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The novel coronavirus was first identified in Wuhan, capital of Hubei, in Dec. 2019. In response to the severity of the outbreak, Hong Kong Express suspended its flights between China and Saipan, stranding well over 100 tourists on island with no way to return — a decision, CNMI Governor Ralph DLG Torres complained, that was made “hastily and without notice.”

King-Hinds said the tourists may be able to repatriate soon because the Korean government has lifted some of its border restrictions, allowing entry to China through Korea.

“Although this is not an airport operator issue, CPA’s ports police have stepped up to the plate to provide the stranded passengers with information as to who to contact for assistance,” she told Variety. “CPA ports police also obtained their contact and other pertinent information necessary so that they can be provided with the assistance they need to return home.”

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