HONOLULU (KHON2) — A study published by the Lancet Infectious Disease Journal wanted to give struggling airlines and states an idea of how people can safely travel again during a pandemic.
The study assumes 100,000 travelers could be infected on any given day before, during and after their trip.
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“The main thrust of the study is that when you do a pre-test program, and you have a three-day window before travel, you can reduce the amount of disease significantly that would travel,” Lt. Gov. Josh Green explained.
The study used computer models and simulations based on things like daily case numbers, testing, U.S. regions and how long someone could be infected for.
Each strategy was run 3,000 times.
The study did not use any Hawaii Safe Travels data but it found PCR testing three days before a flight — or a rapid test the day of a flight — reduced the number of infectious travelers by 88%.
“Yes, up to 12% of people might not be captured because they are still incubating their disease, or the test doesn’t catch it, but the other 88% is caught and they don’t travel,” he said.
“The point is that you’d have seven or eight times as many cases [here in Hawaii or anywhere] that would be positive,” he said.
Lt. Gov. Green said, the study backs Hawaii’s Safe Travels Testing Program, which has shown few cases have slipped through since re-opening in October, 2020.
He said, Hawaii would have remained closed to tourism until summer, 2021, without Safe Travels in place.
“That was never a possible reality for us,” he said. “We would have had widespread economic devastation and so the reason I pushed so hard for the program back in the summer to get it implemented was I knew that we couldn’t survive as a state; we literally would not survive you would have seen tens of thousands of people leaving Hawaii.”
He said, it would have taken years to recover the economy without re-opening to visitors and many more businesses would have been forced to close for good.
“I think that message may have been lost on some people, but it absolutely had to be done now we’ve had over 2 million visitors or travelers safely come to Hawaii and we’ve had an inconsequential number of cases coming from travel, so we just get to focus now on vaccinating our people and taking the next step,” Green continued.
Green said, Safe Travels will remain in place throughout the summer and possibly through fall, 2021.
“I think that the key landmarks are sometime in May we have the vaccination passport and we continue to do Safe Travels through the summer [for people who aren’t vaccinated], we ourselves are safe because we vaccinated most of our population by July 4, and then come Fall you’ll see the numbers be so low across the country that we won’t worry so much and I would expect that we can propose to back off of any restrictions,” Green added.
The study also showed certain rapid antigen tests administered on the day of travel were almost as effective as the gold standard PCR test three days prior to travel.