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Local officials consider new uses for Safe Travels program technology

Stela Di from Pixabay

HONOLULU — Local officials are looking for new ways to use the state's “Safe Travels” program that was implemented to screen visitors during the pandemic.

Hawaiʻi’s $37 million travel policy, which ended last month, required travelers to upload a negative COVID-19 test or proof of vaccination to avoid quarantine.

The program had web and mobile applications developed, and the state installed thermal and facial-recognition cameras in airports to help find potentially sick passengers.

“Getting rid of facial-recognition cameras and thermal screening is a ridiculous idea,” said state Sen. Glenn Wakai. “We are moving toward the day when you and I don’t need a phone or a card, we just use our face to get access and pay for things."

The Hawaiʻi Tourism Authority said the mobile application could be used to help visitors get educational and emergency information, fill out agricultural forms or make reservations to visit natural and cultural sites.

Gov. David Ige said he is promoting the entire program to federal officials.

"They should establish some process for health emergencies,” Ige said. ”We don’t want to end up having to see the same kind of shutdown of the (visitor) industry when an infectious disease starts to circulate in the community.”

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