Hawaii Island temporarily loosening travel requirements for vaccinated mainland travelers

HONOLULU (KHON2) — Hawaii Island has loosened some of its travel requirements by allowing vaccinated trans-Pacific travelers to bypass the County’s mandatory second post-arrival test.

The temporary program began on Thursday, April 15, and is expected to continue through Saturday, May 1.

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Hawaii Island has required most incoming travelers to take a second test on arrival since the state’s Safe Travels program rolled out in October 2020.

“Last I checked, I believe it was somewhere in the 180-190 range, it might have gone up to 200 since then, but somewhere in the high hundreds for sure,” Hawaii County spokesperson Cyrus Johnasen said about how many COVID-19 cases had been caught with a post-arrival test in place.

Big Island travelers are still required to take part in the Safe Travels program even if they have been vaccinated.

All passengers will show their QR code or go into quarantine, but the ones who have been vaccinated will be allowed to bypass the second test and long line. The vaccinated traveler will show their card and be on their way.

Hawaii County said less than half of the 2,700 mainland travelers who arrived on the island Thursday had been vaccinated.

The County said testing only non-vaccinated travelers is a pilot program and helps cut down long lines at the airport.

“It’s just a way of filtering through the arriving guests,” Johnasen explained.

He said the County will jump on board with the State vaccine travel program once it is announced.

“Hopefully, maybe this will give [the State] an inclination of how effective or how quick the process can be at airports,” Johnasen said. “But for the most part, this is just to help us control our lines, and we’re not sure if it’s going to affect or impact how the State moves forward.”

Hawaii Island’s change comes as Maui finalizes plans to require all mainland travelers to take a post-arrival test, that program is expected to begin by the end of April 2021.

Oahu does not require travelers to take a test on arrival and Kauai has a voluntary second test program in place.

Some legislators hope a more uniform policy is implemented once a vaccine travel pass is announced.

“I think the administration is really looking at a uniform plan throughout the state,” said Rep. Richard Onishi (D) Hilo, Keaau, Volcano. “I still think that those people who have not been vaccinated or who have not gotten the pretest, I 100%, believe they should be tested, right when they arrive.”

Gov. David Ige is expected to make an announcement about a statewide vaccine travel pass during the week of Monday, April 19.