MESSAGE FROM THE PRESIDENT: My Fellow Micronesians: An Explanation for Why I Reinstated the 14-Day Travel Restrictions

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Message from the President

My Fellow Micronesians: An Explanation for Why I Reinstated the 14-Day Travel Restrictions

 

My fellow Micronesians,

 

Yesterday, February 14th 2020, I signed an Amended Declaration of Public Health Emergency per Congressional Resolution 21-117. I thank Congress for the attention they’ve given to this National Emergency; among other provisions, the Congress have kindly and wisely extended the Declaration to sixty (60) days since its original signing on January 31st, 2020. Likewise, I appreciate that Congress explicitly granted me the authority to amend the terms of our travel restrictions, and to reimpose previous restrictions and requirements as may be necessary.

My fellow Micronesians, after much focused and dedicated consultations with our State and National Health professionals, the Task Force and I have determined that it IS in the best interest of the health and safety of our citizens and residents to reimpose the 14-day delay or quarantine requirement for travelers coming from countries, states, or territories with confirmed cases of the Coronavirus. Our FSM State Departments of Health have been meeting with our National Department of Health & Social Affairs, and Emergency Task Force, and it is clear that the States believe they require more preparation. This is one of the reasons the States are declaring Public Health Emergencies as well.

I have extended the 14-day travel delay for a period of another two weeks, effective yesterday. As long as our Nation can remain virus free, I am confident that, after a two week period, our overall capabilities to screen, assess, isolate if necessary, and treat any suspected cases will be improved to a point where the overall exposure risk can be lowered to a locally manageable level.

These measures are no guarantee that we won’t get the virus, but as part of a larger overall mitigation plan it has credible merit. Carrying an umbrella with you doesn’t guarantee you won’t get wet when it rains—but it certainly helps. If you’re going to use a raincoat, the umbrella is your best protection until the raincoat is ready.

My fellow Micronesians, it is my hope that you agree that to err on the side of caution represents one of the best measures for reducing the chance of Coronavirus exposure at this time.

I am your public servant and accountable to you all. You deserve to know what our Nation will be doing in these next two weeks to prepare.

Firstly, you should know that it is vital that we conduct intensive training of medical personnel, and other appropriate personnel, throughout our Nation in all aspects of infection control, particularly as it relates to suspect cases of this highly contagious Coronavirus illness. Our Health professionals have made it extraordinarily clear to me that all health employees, from the surgeons to the janitors, must practice best infection control measures. Thus, I am instructing our Health staff to conduct Infection Control 101 training across every State in our Nation.

I’ve solicited the support of our States to focus on the establishment of adequate isolation infrastructure, along with required training in monitoring, with emphasis on isolation processes and procedures. These facilities and processes are crucial in answering the question “What do we do if a case arrives in the FSM?”

Further, there are numerous additional preparedness projects that can and must occur in the coming weeks in order for the Nation to improve its overall exposure risk to a locally manageable level. The U.S. Navy Seabees have completed an isolation unit at Misko Beach in Pohnpei State; this is not the only project that the Nation or the Nation’s States will request of them. UNICEF is planning to build and disseminate 100 handwashing stations in public facilities across the Nation, and this is particularly crucial since the World Health Organization has made it clear that proper Water, Sanitation & Hygiene (WASH) procedures are key to preventing the spread of most illnesses, including Coronavirus.

We are in receipt of very credible information that an actual Lab testing capability should be operational in the U.S. Territory of Guam by the end of February. This would greatly enhance the Nation’s capacity to adequately test for instances of the Coronavirus, by rapidly shortening the turnaround time for results—this means receiving results in weeks instead of one month.

With respect to paragraph six (6) of the adopted Congressional Resolution, I have not hesitated to seriously consider our Local and National level health service capabilities. My decisions are very much informed not only by my Cabinet, but from my conversations, and my Cabinet’s conversations, with the Directors of the FSM State Departments of Health, as well as our Honorable Governors. The World Health Organization is a valued development partner, but it cannot be the exclusive authority on our national decision-making.

It has been suggested by some of my senior staff that the Congress’ resolution, and the Amended Declaration I signed, could suggest a political quarrel amongst the Executive and Legislative Branches. Let me be absolutely clear: I have only respect, admiration, empathy, and appreciation for my colleagues in Congress, whom I respect as close friends. I am entirely confident that Congress’ concerns, like my own, are fundamentally based in their concern for the good of the Nation and its citizens. I explicitly mentioned in my Inaugural Address that I will do all I can to have a productive relationship with Congress, and that hasn’t changed, and that will never change. We are, all of us, united together in taking actions today for our Nation’s prosperity tomorrow.

I have asked my PIO to ensure that my full letter to the Honorable Wesley W. Simina, Speaker of the 21st FSM Congress, is attached to this message. My official communications are public information, and citizens deserve to know that what I am saying to you today isn’t different from what I’ve told my friends and colleagues in Congress.

Before I conclude this message, I wish to inform my fellow Micronesians that the decision to extend the travel restrictions is truly not one that I’ve taken lightly. Sometimes, what’s difficult for our country in the short term gives us more resilience and yields long-term rewards—especially when we’re dealing with human lives.

The moment I became aware of the Congressional Resolution this has been the foremost issue on my mind. I appreciate Congress’ arguments for economic stability, and that’s why I included the clarification for cargo shipping that our economic lifelines will not be interrupted. I am obligated by my oath of office to protect and serve the People of the FSM, and to uphold and safeguard its Constitution; I am also obligated by my own heart and my own conscience to do everything I can to protect and serve our Nation and its citizens.

I encourage you all to participate in your democracy and contribute to our Nation-building process. As your public servant, I repeat again that I am accountable to you. You are encouraged to communicate with me your thoughts through my PIO.

Thank you, and God Bless the Federated States of Micronesia.

 

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Below are images of the President's letter to Speaker Simina. Click the images or this text to view as a PDF.


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