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State tightens pre-arrival COVID-19 screening program for transpacific travelers




Starting Tuesday, two days before Thanksgiving, trans-Pacific arrivals to Hawaii must test negative for COVID-19 from a trusted testing partner before departure to avoid a mandatory 14-day quarantine.

This tightening of the state’s pre-arrival testing program applies to arriving passengers from the continental United States and international travelers. If test results are not available before embarking on the final leg of a trip to Hawaii, the traveler must quarantine for 14 days or the length of stay, whichever is shorter.

Previously, those who were tested before departure but did not receive results were subject to quarantine, but were released from quarantine after confirmation of a negative result.

“We are adding this safety precaution now in response to the dramatically growing number of COVID-19 cases in the continental United States and around the world,” Governor David Ige said at a press conference Thursday. “… The health of our residents and visitors is our primary concern, especially as more and more people come to Hawaii to celebrate the holidays.”

For example, Illinois reported 14,612 new COVID-19 cases and 168 deaths on Thursday, the highest number of coronavirus-related deaths in one day since the virus’s spring outbreak in May, and the third highest number of deaths in 24 hours. period since the start of the pandemic.

By comparison, Hawaii, which has less than a tenth of Illinois’ population, reported 107 new cases of COVID-19 on Thursday, including 12 on the Big Island, and has reported 223 coronavirus-related deaths since the start of the pandemic.

Ige said 94% of travelers participating in Hawaii’s pre-trip testing program arrive with their test results in hand or uploaded to the state’s online Safe Travels app.

“At least 44 travelers who took the pre-trip test… tested positive when they arrived or a day or two later,” Ige said. “It’s not a large number, but it’s enough to change the policy.”

Ige also announced that starting in mid-December, travelers traveling from Canada to Hawaii could bypass the state’s mandatory 14-day quarantine if they take a COVID-19 test at labs identified by Air Canada and WestJet.

The test must be taken within 72 hours of travel to Hawaii and a negative result must be received prior to departure.

Travelers without proof of a negative test result before boarding their flight to Hawaii will be required to self-quarantine for 14 days or the length of stay, whichever is shorter.

“A lot of Canadians love to visit Hawaii during the winter months to escape the cold weather, so the timing of that works well,” said Ige. “… Canada is Hawaii’s second largest international market, so their commitment to travel safely to our islands is an important next step.

Canadian visitors to Hawaii will still need to be quarantined for 14 days upon their return.

Angela Avery, vice president of WestJet, said there is a pilot program at Calgary International Airport in the province of Alberta where returnees can be tested upon arrival “and quarantines can be drastically. reduced ”.

“I can even talk about it personally,” Avery said. “I flew to the United States last weekend, and when I got back I was tested at the airport. And the quarantine was effectively lifted less than 48 hours later. “

All direct flights from Canada will arrive at either Daniel K. Inouye Honolulu International Airport or Kahului Airport in Maui, at least initially.

The Hawaii Tourism Authority reported that on Wednesday 8,879 people arrived in Hawaii from out of state.

A total of 4,527 people indicated that they came to Hawaii for vacation. There were also 1,192 returning residents. Of these arriving passengers, 1,006 landed at Ellison Onizuka Kona International Airport in Keahole. Of those who arrived in Kona, 577 said they were on the Big Island on vacation and 109 were returning residents.

Email John Burnett at jburne[email protected]

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