HONOLULU (KHON2) — Travelers to Hawaii must have their negative COVID results before getting on a flight or they will have to go on 14-day quarantine. The state is implementing stricter rules starting on Tuesday, Nov. 24 as the number of cases on the mainland keeps surging.
Passengers have been allowed to show their negative results after arrival since the pre-travel testing program started in October, and have been required to quarantine until those results come in. That will no longer be the case starting Nov. 24.
The governor says extra precaution is needed with cases spiking on the mainland and more travelers expected as the holidays approach. More than 270,000 travelers have been screened since the program started on Oct. 15 and at least 44 travelers received their positive test result after arrival, according to Gov. David Ige.
“It isn’t a large number but it’s enough to change the policy. We have to close the gap to ensure everyone’s safety,” said Gov. David Ige.
The new policy applies to mainland and international travelers, but not to inter-island passengers. Those who have a hard time downloading their results in the Safe Travels website will be allowed to show a hard copy.
Officials acknowledge that getting test results within 72 hours before departure is getting harder due to the mainland surge. That could mean fewer travelers, but officials say that should also keep Hawaii safe.
“If people can’t get a test because there’s so much COVID, say, in Southern California, well then we would expect less travelers here. So it’s a dynamic system meant to be safe for Hawaii,” said Lt. Gov. Josh Green.
The state also announced that a travel bubble with Canada will start mid-December, similar to the the one now with Japan. Canada is considered the second largest international market for Hawaii. Air Canada and WestJet Airlines will be setting up direct flights.
“We think this is fantastic, that our guests will have more confidence in their travel. And we too are very excited to improve the hygiene and health standards on our flights,” said Angela Avery of WestJet Airlines.
US travelers are still not allowed into Canada, and it is not clear how many will be coming here in the months ahead. But Maui Mayor Mike Victorino is excited about the possibilities. Maui is a favorite destination for Canadians.
“Maui looks forward to the return of our snowbirds, our Canadian brothers and sisters. We look forward to their contribution to our economy,” said Victorino.
In response to the new policy change, Hawaiian Airlines gave the following statement:
“We continue to believe there should be consideration shown for those travelers who do the right thing and, by no fault of their own, do not receive their test results in time. This new restriction will create even more uncertainty for travelers and serve as a deterrent to the right kind of visitors to our state — those with the intention of testing prior to travel.“Hawaiian Airlines
The pre-travel testing program has allowed some amount of economic recovery, and more importantly, kept Hawai‘i’s infection rate as the lowest in the country and below levels experienced before the quarantine exemption launched Oct. 15. It would be a shame to undermine a program that is working by creating uncertainty for travelers.
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