Hawaii one step closer to vaccine exemption for travelers

Coronavirus

HONOLULU(KHON2) — Fully vaccinated travelers are one step closer to being able to skip quarantine.

Gov. David Ige gave the green light on Friday, April 9, for a vaccine exemption program that could roll out as early as May.

Planning a trip this summer? Make sure to add getting vaccinated to the to-do list. Travelers may soon be able to bypass testing and quarantines using a COVID-19 vaccination card.

Gov. David Ige is on board with a vaccine exemption program, pending approval from HIEMA director General Kenneth Hara.

Lt. Gov. Josh Green said, Hara is all for it and they are the ones developing the program.

“General Hara and I are in lockstep to get this done,” Green said. “Really, it was a good day when the governor agreed to go this direction. This is the game changer for Hawaii.”

According to Green, individuals can qualify for the exemption two weeks after they are fully vaccinated.

“Then you can just upload your card,” he explained. “And then show your card upon arrival at the gate with your ID. And then you’re free to go. That’s the goal.”

Hara and Green are currently working with several companies to streamline a digital platform and online verification process.

“We’re working with a company called Clear, a company called Common Pass, and a company called First Vitals here in Hawaii,” Green said. “All of these groups may very well deliver a digital platform for us, so it can be even more easily uploaded.”

“But at first, our inclination is to use the card and have verification by checking people’s identification at the gate,” Green said.

Green said, the vaccine exemption is the “natural evolution of our Safe Travel Program,” and he and Hara plan to give the governor their plan during the week of Monday, April 12.

Anyone who is not vaccinated can still travel by following the guidelines of the Safe Travel Program.

“So we don’t discriminate against anyone, if they are against being vaccinated and they want to travel, they can just get the a test, no big deal,” Green said. “So people will have choices. We always believe that people should be treated fairly.”

The program could be green-lit for inter-island travel as early as May 1, according to Green.

“We’re expecting to start inter-island travel for our residence first. I think a month later, once we’ve made sure the program works nicely, we go to travel from the mainland with this safe travels pass,” Green said.

He said, they will not allow exemptions for international travelers until much later due to the increasing number of COVID-19 variants popping up around the globe.

The vaccine exemption for local and mainland visitors is something Hawaii Tourism and Lodging Association president Mufi Hannemann said they have been waiting for.

“From the get-go we wanted the vaccination be used as a passport to make it easier for people to travel in a safe, healthy, responsible manner.”

Hannemann said, they are eager to accommodate more visitors and believe the program will help give Hawaii’s economy a shot in the arm.

“We were very pleased. And, you know, we pledge to the governor that we’ll do our part from the hospitality side,” Hannemann said.

Concerns have been raised regarding the use of fraudulent vaccination cards. Green said, there will be severe penalties for anyone caught using a fake card.

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