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Hawai‘i Drops Some Pandemic Rules for Inter-Island Travel and Vaccinated Residents

AP Photo/David J. Phillip

Hawai‘i has loosened some of its pandemic travel rules—a change that is expected to drive more tourism to Hawai‘i and between the islands this summer.

People can now fly between islands in the state without having to be vaccinated or tested for COVID-19. The new rules began Tuesday.

“It was so easy compared to when I went to Alabama and I had to look for my health code. They don’t need it anymore for Hilo,” Big Island resident Fabinita Franco said before leaving Honolulu's Daniel K. Inouye International Airport after a work trip. “I come from the Philippines, and I don’t have much knowledge of computers. I’m more confident to travel now. I was nervous before.”

Anyone who has been vaccinated in Hawai‘i can also enter the state without having to be tested. Unvaccinated travelers and people vaccinated outside of Hawai‘i must still get a negative coronavirus test before arrival to avoid a 10-day quarantine.

"That's incredibly helpful for individuals who are traveling beyond just the West Coast," said Hawai‘i Public Radio’s Savannah Harriman-Pote, who traveled inter-island this week.

"I personally flew back from Virginia in February and had to get tested, and it was difficult to find a trusted testing partner because most of them are based on the West Coast," she said. "Additionally, you have to have your test results within 72 hours of the last leg of your flight. So if you have a six-hour flight from one coast to the other and then you have an overnight layover, that really shortens the window."

Sherilyn Kajiwara, a special-projects administrator assigned to the state’s “Safe Travels” program, said some travelers are still failing to get the proper test and others believe their vaccination status will allow them to bypass quarantine rules when traveling from the mainland.

On Tuesday, there were 1,693 people in travel quarantine in Hawai‘i. Although Kajiwara estimated more than half of those in quarantine were returning residents.

Tourism officials said the new rules are a good step toward reopening to even more travelers this summer.

“We’re anticipating a robust summer, and this enables it to go smoothly while demonstrating that we aren’t going to sacrifice the health and safety of our community,” Hawai‘i Lodging & Tourism Association President and CEO Mufi Hannemann said.

Mokulele Airlines overwhelmingly serves the local population and said it first saw increased travel in May when vaccine passports were permitted for residents traveling inter-island.

"For the most part, we are running people who live on one island, work on another and that does include a lot of daily travel," said Keith Sisson, chief marketing officer of parent company Southern Airways Express. "There are a lot of grandmothers who haven't seen grandchildren in quite some time and we're seeing those people using Mokulele to reconnect now that the travel restrictions have eased and now lifted."

Hawai‘i Gov. David Ige has said the state will allow domestic trans-Pacific travelers who are vaccinated outside of Hawai‘i but within the country to begin using vaccination exemptions when 60% of Hawai‘i’s population is fully vaccinated.

There will still be mainland testing requirements for children between 5 to 11 years old because they are not yet eligible for vaccines.

The state will end all restrictions when 70% of Hawai‘i’s population is fully vaccinated, Ige said.

The Associated Press is one of the largest and most trusted sources of independent newsgathering, supplying a steady stream of news to its members, international subscribers and commercial customers. Founded in 1846, AP is neither privately owned nor government-funded; instead, it's a not-for-profit news cooperative owned by its American newspaper and broadcast members.
Savannah Harriman-Pote is the energy and climate change reporter.
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