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Hawaii Governor Cautious About Loosening Virus Restrictions

In this Jan. 21, 2020, file photo, Gov. David Ige speaks to reporters in Honolulu after delivering his state of the state address at the Hawaiʻi State Capitol.
AP Photo/Audrey McAvoy, File
FILE - In this Jan. 21, 2020, file photo, Gov. David Ige speaks to reporters in Honolulu after delivering his state of the state address at the Hawaii State Capitol.

HONOLULU — Hawaii's governor has said he is cautious about loosening air travel restrictions for people who have received a coronavirus vaccine, while stressing that new virus variants are not widespread in the state.

Democratic Gov. David Ige said Monday that researchers are still unclear about whether the vaccine hampers virus transmission.

"Until the science (tells) us that those who are vaccinated cannot carry the virus and, I think most important, do not transmit it to other people, I think it would be irresponsible to say that those vaccinated can travel about freely," Ige said.

Ige's comments contradicted Lt. Gov. Josh Green, who said last week that changes could be in store for Hawaii's Safe Travels program for people who show they have been vaccinated.

The program requires visitors and returning residents to receive coronavirus tests before arrival to avoid a mandatory 10-day quarantine.

New variants of the virus have been confirmed in Hawaii. But Ige said those strains have not become prevalent.

The state Department of Health's State Laboratories Division on Friday confirmed the presence of B.1.1.7, a highly transmissible variation first detected in the United Kingdom. A second case of the variant was confirmed Saturday, with both cases occurring on Oahu.

The L452R variant, first found in Denmark, also has been identified in Hawaii in up to 10 cases, although Ige said it is not believed to spread easier or be more debilitating.

The state has been searching for virus variants since the summer, Ige said.

"It's not that we have to do something different. But we would note that the U.K. variant is definitely more transmissible, so if you're not wearing your mask, or you're going to events with many people, then it won't be long before that becomes the dominant variant here in the islands," Ige said.

For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. For some — especially older adults and people with existing health problems — it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia, and death.

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