After seven months of shutting out travelers with mandatory quarantines, Hawaii is set to revive tourism starting next week with new testing requirements. But at least one popular island will keep travel on lockdown by keeping quarantine requirements in place – and more may follow suit.
In the works for months, Hawaii is on track to launch its new pre-travel testing program to allow travel to the islands to resume. Starting Thursday, Oct. 15, travelers can bypass 14-day quarantines by providing a negative COVID-19 test result taken no more than 72 hours before arriving.
Hawaiian officials have hailed the new testing program as a safe way to restart tourism, the economic engine of the islands. Yet several islands could throw a wrench in travelers’ hopes of returning by keeping quarantine requirements in place.
The Big Island has officially opted out of the testing program, according to The Honolulu Star-Advertiser, meaning all arriving travelers will still need to quarantine for 14 days. The mayors of both Kauai and Maui are also considering opting out, Hawaii Public Radio reports.
It’s unclear how long those islands would remain essentially off-limits for travel. But it would leave Oahu – home to Honolulu (HNL) – as the only realistic option for mainland travelers for the foreseeable future.
Why Kauai, Maui, and The Big Island May Not Re-Open
The problem revolves around testing.
While the new pre-travel program requires a recent negative test from an approved lab, several mayors have pushed for a more robust policy with follow-up testing after travelers arrive. Hawaii Gov. David Ige shut down Kauai’s requirement for a second negative test but gave islands the option of opting out of the testing program altogether.
Read more about the testing requirements for traveling to Hawaii.
“The decision on the one-test proposal by the state is not acceptable in regards to our risk factor,” Big Island Mayor Harry Kim told the Star-Advertiser. “If that is the only option, then Hawaii County will not participate in it.”
Mayors of both Kauai and Maui are still weighing their options. The timeline for when they would decide was unclear.
Ige has argued that a two-test requirement would deplete the state’s precious supply of tests. Instead, the governor has proposed randomly performing follow-up tests on 10% of travelers four days after arrival.
“The Safe Travels Program aims to reduce the risk of COVID-19 and support safe travel while also restoring jobs in Hawaii,” Ige said. “The program needs to be clear, consistent and as simple as possible for our residents and visitors in order to ensure the program’s success.”
Like countries around the world, Hawaii is trying to strike a balance between reviving a critical tourism industry and protecting the state against COVID-19 outbreaks. In addition to testing requirements, travelers will have their temperatures checked and fill out a health form upon arrival.
Hawaii’s long-awaited reopening just got a lot more complicated. At least one popular island will keep travel essentially shutdown for the time being. And Maui and Kauai may join that list.