The governor of Hawaii, David Ige, warned yesterday that the state might need to further delay reopening to tourists as COVID-19 cases continue to climb. Hawaii was due to roll out a pre-travel testing program for visitors next month, but that may have to be put on hold until case numbers are under control.
Spike in virus cases delays tourism in Hawaii
As reported by Travel Pulse, at a news conference on Monday, Governor David Ige warned that, because of a spike in the number of coronavirus cases, the introduction of the state’s pre-travel COVID-19 testing program may have to delayed again. The program will allow visitors from out of state to avoid the 14-day quarantine period if they provide a negative test result.
Originally due to start on August 1, the program was moved back because of a rise in cases along with inadequate supplies of testing equipment. The testing program is now scheduled to begin on September 1. However, Governor Ige told reporters,
“If there are too many cases here and we haven’t stopped the increase, then we would be looking at delaying the September 1st date. Clearly, we would want to see a stopping of the increase in the number of new cases here in the state and hopefully begin the trend downward. As I’ve said, though, we can only be successful…if we come together as a community.”
The state reported 207 COVID-19 cases on Monday. This took the total number of cases to more than 2,400 since the start of the pandemic.
Hotels and airlines request notice of testing
Mr. Ige said that Hotels in Hawaii have requested three to four weeks’ notice before the pre-travel COVID-19 testing program starts so that they can prepare for the influx of tourists. Hawaiian Airlines would like at least two weeks’ warning to be able to ramp up its operations.
United Airlines last week announced that it was planning to increase its services to Hawaii in September, along with its resumption of almost 30 international routes. The carrier said it planned to resume flights from the US mainland to Hilo and Kauai in Hawaii, and increase operations between the mainland and Honolulu, Kona, and Maui.
As the airline tries to restore passenger confidence, Patrick Quayle, United’s vice president of International Network and Alliances, said,
“We continue to be realistic in our approach to building back our international and domestic schedules by closely monitoring customer demand and flying where people want to go. In September, we’re adding even more options for leisure travelers or those who want to visit friends and relatives, whether that’s within the United States or around the world.”
Social gatherings blamed for an increase in cases
In Hawaii, like other American states and locations around the world that have seen a significant increase in coronavirus cases, community spread is cited as the major factor. Governor Ige stated,
“As we re-opened, many people have relaxed their vigilance and this new surge is a result. If we don’t get this surge under control, we may need to put back some restrictions and no one wants to see that.”
As the state introduces contact tracing, the governor says that it is not a substitute for safe practices such as wearing masks and physical distancing.
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