Proposed pilot travel program between Japan, Hawaii could be quarantine-free

Coronavirus

The 14-day quarantine rule is not exactly welcoming tourists to our islands, but a proposed pilot program may change that. When and how does Hawaii re-open its tourism industry? It’s an issue that continues to be addressed as jobs and the economy are at stake.

On Thursday, Governor David Ige said he will be extending the 14-day quarantine beyond June 30. The extension would be for domestic and international travelers. But a decision on reopening inter-island travel would be made within the next few days.

“As travel goes and inter-island travel goes, we have a very low viral load right now. So I feel safe from a medical standpoint that we could’ve gotten it going a couple of days ago but these are large questions and I don’t blame anybody for not getting it done earlier,” said Lt. Gov. Josh Green.

Lt. Governor Green tells us the sticking point is setting up protocols at the airports.

“I’m constantly recommending we do things safely but whatever we can do to open up sooner rather than later is good. I know the Governor is going to make announcements in the coming days. It’s in the first part of June you can be sure,” said Green.

But quarantine rules may not always have to apply. During the Senate Special Committee on COVID-19, discussions centered around establishing what’s called a “travel bubble” between Japan and Hawaii. It would be a pilot program and the idea is to create quarantine-free travel between the two regions. The two parties would also have to agree upon hygiene protocols.

“A travel bubble with Japan in my view would be the most desirable pilot to reopen tourism in Hawaii and to give our people jobs again. The Japanese are desirable tourists and would be the least amount of health risk to Hawaii,” said Paul Yonamine, Central Pacific Financial Corporation CEO. He’s part of the Hawaii Executive Collaborative, which will be involved in making a private-public partnership task force.

The committee is on board with the idea, but some members believe a July target date may be too soon especially if a task force was to be created.

“My experience with task force is that it’s not going to be done in a month. You’re going to go through all these hoops. I don’t think that the most efficient way,” said Senator Donna Kim.

Yonamine says Japan is looking into 15-minute saliva-based test kits at the airports. Of course, it’s something that would still need approval on our end. Yonamine says they will come back with best practices from other countries as the committee will try to get the different state agencies involved.

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