SAIPAN — The Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands is looking at the possibility of establishing travel bubble programs with other tourism markets, including Japan.

Gov. Ralph Torres on Monday said that he had spoken with Japanese Consul Kazuhiko Ono regarding the vaccination rate in Japan.

He noted that Japan’s vaccination rate is based on the entire population, while the U.S. rate measures those who are eligible for the COVID-19 vaccine, or individuals 12 years old or older. 

Marianas Visitors Authority Managing Director Priscilla Iakopo on Monday said the MVA board has approved the creation of a Japan Tourism Resumption Investment Plan, or TRIP, ad hoc committee to be chaired by Hyatt Regency Saipan General Manager Nick Nishikawa.

Iakopo said MVA also is communicating with its Japan office to begin discussions with travel partners in Japan.

She said MVA was told that Japan currently is focusing on controlling the coronavirus in the Asian nation.

“When they’re able to control that, I guess, they’ll start discussions with us,” she added.

Last week, she said she spoke with Skymark Airlines, which had to suspend its Japan-Saipan flight service because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“They’re still asking for our patience,” Iaokopo said, referring to Skymark Airlines. “Once they’re ready to resume travel again, whether that will be domestically or internationally, we will be on standby.”

THE Commonwealth is now looking at the possibility of establishing travel bubble programs with other tourism markets, including Japan.

Gov. Ralph DLG Torres on Monday said that he had spoken with Japanese Consul Kazuhiko Ono regarding the vaccination rate in Japan.

He noted that Japan’s vaccination rate is based on the entire population while the U.S. rate measures those who are eligible, or individuals 12 years of age or older, for the Covid-19 vaccine.

“So it’s a little bit different on the vaccine per population requirements, but as you know, around the world, the higher percentage of vaccination per country, the safer it is, so I’m sure that before they open up their borders, they would want to reach a certain number of percentage of their population to be vaccinated,” the governor said, referring to Japan.

With the CNMI recently reaching an 80% vaccination rate, the governor thanked the community, first responders, doctors, nurses, “and everyone involved in the effort to reach this goal.”

He added, “I’m really excited that we reached our goal. I guess when you reach a goal, now we’re going to try to reach another goal, which is hopefully 90%…. Now we’re focusing on our students, our kids, our [Public School System] student body, our faculties, and of course, we continue to push also our government and private entities.”

Marianas Visitors Authority Managing Director Priscilla M. Iakopo on Monday said the MVA board has approved the creation of a Japan Tourism Resumption Investment Plan, or TRIP, ad hoc committee to be chaired by Hyatt Regency Saipan general manager Nick Nishikawa.

Iakopo said MVA is also communicating with its Japan office to begin discussions with travel partners in Japan.

She said MVA was told that Japan is currently focusing on controlling the coronavirus in the Asian nation.

“When they’re able to control that, I guess they’ll start discussions with us,” she added.

Last week, she said she spoke with Skymark Airlines which had to suspend its Japan-Saipan flight service because of the Covid-19 pandemic.

“They’re still asking for our patience,” Iaokopo said, referring to Skymark Airlines. “Once they’re ready to resume travel again, whether that will be domestically or internationally, we will be on standby.”

Japanese Consul Kazuhiko Ono, for his part, said establishing a travel bubble between the CNMI and Japan is not easy.

“As you can see, [the CNMI has] a travel bubble with Korea, but how many Korean tourists are visiting the Northern Mariana Islands at the moment? So I think, in my opinion, travel bubble is not a perfect scheme, but now the population of Japan who are already vaccinated is more than 50%, and I think the number is going up, so…maybe October or November…we will [ease] some protocols and some restrictions, including those affecting travel,” he said.

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ROCKFORD, Ill. (WTVO/WQRF) — Youth baseball has always been a big part of summers in the Stateline. These days many serious baseball players are spending their time with the Rockford Baseball Academy.

Since 2013 the Rockford Baseball Academy was run and run well by the Scarpetta brothers Dan and Dennis. Last October they turned the academy over to current Boylan coaches Matt Weber and Austin Licon. Licon is the President, Weber is the Vice President.

“Obviously, the Scarpetta’s have done a great job,” said Weber. “They’ve produced a lot of great players and good teams over the years.”

Weber and Licon are determined to continue that tradition with a few tweaks.

“I think with the generational change we’re a little more technology involved, a lot more video work,” said Weber. “We’re always looking to add something with HitTrax.”

Younger players ages 12-14 play in a local league and travel to some tournaments on weekends. Their season runs from April through Mid-July. High School kids play from late May or early June through July. They’ll travel further for games to the Chicago Suburbs, Kenosha, Indianapolis, sometimes further trying to play high-caliber competition.

RBA is already conducting tryouts for next year.

Two of the more established high school players currently for RBA are Hononegah’s Bryce Goodwine and Boylan’s Joey Appino.

“I would totally recommend this academy,” said Appino. It’s a great place for development. If you want to become better. These are coaches that know how to work hard.”

“They really care about their players,” said Goodwine. “They want you to develop, and they’ll work with you day-in and day-out, and the exposure they get us for colleges and stuff. We have a lot of kids that were 18 years old that just played, and a lot of them are going to colleges.”

“We’re an affordable program that’s just looking to enhance a player’s experience,” says  Weber,  “And the understanding that it’s good to be a great  player in your area, but eventually you have to expand out and see kind of where you rank either in the state, the Midwest.”

The RBA also has an indoor facility with batting cages in Loves Park where players can work on their game year round.

The RBA will hold two more tryouts for next year’s teams the next two Wednesday’s July 28 and August 4 at Boylan High School.  Tryouts for 12-14-year-olds will run from 4:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m.  Tryouts for 15-18-year-olds will run from 5:30 to 7:00 p.m. Players can sign up on-site at those times. More information is available on RBA’s Facebook page.

TAIPEI – A day after confirming the launch of a travel bubble with Palau, Taiwan’s health minister said the next on the island’s list for a travel bubble would likely be Singapore.

Last December, Singapore announced a unilateral lifting of restrictions for travellers entering the country from Taiwan, exempting them from the two-week mandatory quarantine and only requiring them to take a Covid-19 test upon arrival.

On Thursday (March 18), Taiwanese Health Minister Chen Shih-chung said discussions have begun between Taiwan and Singapore, as the latter has been hoping for Taiwan to match its unilateral measure.

Mr Chen also heads the Central Epidemic Command Centre, which coordinates all strategies related to the coronavirus pandemic.

Transportation Minister Lin Chia-lung on Thursday said that while Japan, South Korea and Vietnam are all discussing the possibilities of travel bubbles with Taiwan, “Singapore is by far the most proactive.”

However, Mr Lin declined to reveal more, saying that details are still under discussion.

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Taiwan’s travel bubble with diplomatic ally Palau will kick off on April 1, allowing two flights of 110 passengers each to fly to Palau.

Travellers from both sides are required to be a part of tour groups, and must visit each site and their hotels in a group.

“Taiwan has opted to open a travel bubble with Palau first because Palau has kept its record of zero confirmed Covid-19 cases, so this made policy decisions easier to make,” said Mr Chen.

But he admitted that the challenge would be how Taiwan can ensure that its travellers are not bringing the virus into Palau.

“Thankfully, Palau ultimately trusted that Taiwan’s screenings are valid and made the travel bubble happen,” said the Health Minister.

For the latest updates on the coronavirus, visit here.

This article was first published in The Straits TimesPermission required for reproduction.

N.W.T. Health Minister Julie Green is hoping for “good news” on a possible travel bubble, or some form of freer travel, between the N.W.T. and Yukon by the end of March. 

In the Legislative Assembly Tuesday Inuvik Twin Lakes MLA Lesa Semmler said the circumstances have changed since travel restrictions between the two territories were last discussed. Isolation protocols in the two territories have been a strain on residents.

“Since November 20th, Yukon has halted its bubble with B.C. It has put in place a dedicated corridor for Alaskan residents travelling to the rest of the U.S.A. Those were the things of concern when we discussed it in June,” Semmler said.

“Will the minister continue to have this discussion sooner than later with the [chief public health officer]?”

Green said as soon as the territory announced self-isolation exemptions for some travellers between the N.W.T. and Nunavut on Feb. 18, she knew “the Delta crowd would want to know about getting to the Yukon.”

Green said the travel exemptions for Nunavut are “not a bubble” because people must isolate if they travel from the N.W.T. to Nunavut. 

“What I think people in the Delta want is a bubble, where there is free movement across the border without isolation in either jurisdiction,” said Green.

She will meet with Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Kami Kandola this Wednesday to discuss exactly that.

But Green say free movement between the N.W.T. and Yukon will depend on vaccination rates in the two territories, and on Yukon’s willingness to consider lifting its own self-isolation requirements on non-resident travel.

“This is a live issue,” Green said.  “We hope to have all of our vaccine rolled out by the end of March, so I’m hoping to be able to ask the CPHO … and have the good news prepared for the end of March.”

Green said she is scheduled to meet with officials from the Office of the Chief Public Health Officer Wednesday. Health officials in both Yukon and the N.W.T. aim to have most of their eligible residents vaccinated against COVID-19 by the end of March.

The decision to lift some restrictions on travel between the N.W.T and Nunavut recognized the “strong ties” between people in both regions.

For Nunavut, the current rules allow for exemptions if a person is not symptomatic, has neither been named a contact of a COVID-19 diagnosis nor notified they were part of a COVID-19 outbreak. 

People gather their luggage after arriving at Miami International Airport on a plane from New York earlier this month in Miami, Fla.

Joe Raedle/Getty Images


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People gather their luggage after arriving at Miami International Airport on a plane from New York earlier this month in Miami, Fla.

Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Elected officials in Florida are reacting strongly against media reports that the White House is considering imposing domestic travel restrictions to control the spread of COVID-19.

“It would be unconstitutional. It would be unwise and it would be unjust,” Gov. Ron DeSantis said Thursday at a vaccination site in Port Charlotte, on Florida’s Gulf Coast.

The Republican governor’s remarks came after media reports saying federal officials are weighing travel restrictions, including Florida, aimed at slowing the spread of the highly contagious variant first identified in the U.K.

Asked about the reports on Thursday, White House press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters that no decisions have been made about additional public health measures that would affect domestic travel.

Florida leads the nation in the number of known cases of the B.1.1.7 strain of the coronavirus, the variant that emerged in the U.K. Researchers says the variant now accounts for up to 15% of the new cases statewide. Because it is more contagious, public health experts worry the emergence of the variant could accelerate spread of the disease.

DeSantis pointed out that coronavirus-related emergency room visits in Florida have dropped by more than half since December. He said he “100%” opposed any move to restrict domestic travel.

“Restricting the right of Americans to travel freely throughout our country while allowing illegal aliens to pour across the southern border unmolested would be a ridiculous, but very damaging farce,” DeSantis said. “It would not be based in science. It would purely be a political attack against the people of Florida.”

Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, who is also a Republican, reacted in much the same way as DeSantis. He said if travel restrictions are imposed, they’ll likely be challenged and overturned in court. In a letter he sent to President Biden, Rubio used much of the same language as the governor.

“Instituting a travel ban, or any restriction of movement between the states, would be an outrageous, authoritarian move that has no basis in law or science,” Rubio said. “Instead, it would only serve to inflict severe and devastating economic pain on an already damaged economy.”