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SAIPAN, CNMI (Saipan Tribune, April 4) - The twice-a-week
flights of China Southern Airlines to Tinian will be cancelled initially for
about two weeks amid the international threat of the deadly disease called
severe acute respiratory syndrome, or SARS.

Gov. Juan N. Babauta has discussed the flight cancellations with
concerned people including officials of Tinian Dynasty Hotel and Casino.

"The Governor requested the officials of Tinian Dynasty to
postpone the flights," acting Gov. Diego T. Benavente said, noting that he
was informed that the last couple of flights of the airlines had actually been

SARS, which reportedly originated from Guangdong, China, has
infected over 2,300 people and caused the death of 78 others worldwide.

In an interview, Tinian Dynasty hotel general manager Tom Liu
confirmed that the airlines’ flights would be cancelled in the next two weeks
or up to April 21.

He said, though, that the reason was more of the Iraq war rather
than SARS.

Since the start of the war, he said, the arrival rate from China
has suffered. "It’s the impact of Iraq war. People don’t travel much.
So we just postponed it for April 21," said Liu, adding that travels would
pick up by May due to Chinese holidays.

China Southern Airlines, which resumed its Guangzhou-Saipan
operations last year, flies to the island on Mondays and Fridays.

Tourist arrivals from China reached an all-time-high of 2,436
last February, reflecting an increase of 643 percent compared to February 2002’s

Local authorities attributed the rise to Chinese New Year
celebration in February.

Meantime, public health officials yesterday said that they have
been coordinating with the garment industry on SARS.

The Saipan garment industry employs thousands of workers from

Department of Public Health medical director Richard Brostrom
said new workers from China would be assessed and monitored.

"We’re working out with SGMA and we’re proposing some
activities that will apply only to new workers to CNMI, also to people who have
been here probably in the last few days," he said.

In case people are diagnosed to be suffering from SARS symptoms,
they would be isolated in "safe rooms" at the Commonwealth Health

"They would be given a mask just to protect other people.
We should not be overly concerned by that step," said Brostrom.

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