Guam airport, Public Health coordinating preparations for coronavirus

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Tom Ada, executive director of the Guam International Airport Authority, said Public Health is the lead agency on the issue and that the airport would follow their lead in providing and executing protocols that pertain to incoming passenger screening.

Vice Speaker Telena Nelson, who has oversight over the airport, is seeking a suspension of all incoming flights from countries with confirmed cases of coronavirus.

“We need to discuss if that’s an alternative that we can take. We can suspend flights through China. United Airlines has suspended flights through China to the mainland. What’s most feasible for our island. We don’t want to destroy the economy but we are very concerned with the safety of our children and the people of Guam,” Nelson said.

However, Bobby Alvarez, Acting Vice-President of the Guam Visitors Bureau, expressed concern about the proposed suspension of flights because it would affect “the livelihood of the over 21,000 men and women and their families” as well as impact Guam’s economy.

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Senator Nelson has also sent letters to key government agencies, requesting information on preventative measures and response plans along with requesting that the Guam airport suspend all incoming flights from countries that have confirmed cases of coronavirus, including China, Japan, Korea, Malaysia, Singapore, and Australia, as well as regular flights to Guam from the Philippines, Taiwan, and Hong Kong until a local mitigation plan is in place.

The Department of Public Health and Social Services met with Guam airport officials Wednesday to establish a consensus on how best to keep the coronavirus out of Guam and work out emergency protocols in the event that a patient tests positive.

Tom Ada, executive director of the Guam International Airport Authority, said Public Health is the lead agency on the issue and that the airport would follow their lead in providing and executing protocols that pertain to incoming passenger screening. However, canceling flights might be more difficult.

“I’m really not sure we have that authority. We’ll take the time to respond properly. The questions being asked are more questions that should be directed at Public Health, which is the lead agency in this situation. The airport is there to provide support,” Ada said.

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