Gov. David Ige announced today that passengers from the Pacific to Hawaii who cannot pass a negative arrival test will not be able to bypass the 14-day quarantine once their test arrives.
Ige told a media briefing today that the change began on Tuesday and did not apply to travel between the islands. He also clarified that overseas travelers should not upload test results to the Hawaii Safe Travel Site and could still be quarantined if they arrived with a valid COVID-19 negative test in hand.
“We are now adding this precaution in response to the dramatically increasing number of COVID-19 cases in the continental United States and around the world,” Ige said. “Currently, 94% of travelers participating in the pre-trip testing program for Hawaii arrive here with their test in hand. But at least 44 passengers who took the test before the trip received a positive result on arrival or a day or two later. This is not a large number, but it is enough to change the policy. “
Ige also announced that the country is adding Canada, Hawaii̵
As of 15 October, local trans-Pacific “passengers who, upon entry, provide written confirmation from a state-approved COVID-19 test facility for a negative test result applied to the traveler within 72 hours of the final departure leg” are exempt from mandatory quarantine.
Travelers who have entered with an upcoming test result are entitled to leave the quarantine after it can be checked through the state system for safe travel in Hawaii.
Lt. Col. Josh Green said at the briefing that approximately 6% of people who come to Hawaii as part of a safe travel program in Hawaii either did not receive their test results on time or had challenges boarding it.
However, the country quickly found itself lagging behind pending tests. Travelers were disappointed as they sometimes waited three or four days or more to wait for a manual examination. During one low point, there were more than 3,700 passengers waiting to leave the quarantine. Green said the numbers are much better now, but they are still a problem.
“A much stricter policy is being pursued,” Hawaii Tourism Chairman and CEO John De Vries said on board today. “This is due to the number of people who arrived without a test, the test results are pending. This segment of passengers caused a huge load and difficulty in the system. “
While government officials linked most of Hawaii’s COVID-19 cases to local distribution, Ige said “we certainly expect that there will be several COVID cases that will be introduced due to travel.”
So far, Green said surveillance tests show a positivity rate of less than 1 in every 700 passengers arriving in Hawaii, “which means we are able to control this spread.”
Ige said the state is working to reduce COVID-19 passenger-related cases by testing before arrival and partnering with hotels and other members of the visitor industry to mitigate the spread. The country is also the only one in the country that offers thermal protection at the airport, he said.
The state’s approach to reimbursing travel was first and foremost safety.
It was not until November 6 that the first international visitors were allowed to participate in the pre-trip testing program under an agreement that allows Japanese travelers to visit Hawaii under the same program as domestic travelers.
Only a few thousand visitors from Japan are expected to come to Hawaii for the rest of this year.
Canada’s early recovery has the same challenge as Japan, requiring citizens returning from travel abroad to be quarantined for 14 days after returning home.
However, some eligible international passengers returning to Alberta at selected airports and border crossings may participate in the Alberta COVID-19 pilot border testing program, which allows for reduced quarantine. Currently, the program is only available at Coutts Land Crossing Point or Calgary International Airport, passengers arriving from another Canadian airport are not eligible.
De Vries said it was too early to estimate how much Canada’s travel demand for Hawaii would materialize.
Still, the drop in international visitors, no matter how small, is still an important step in Hawaii’s economic recovery, as not all of the country’s visitor industry infrastructure is built around serving local visitors.