Ige hopes to end interisland travel quarantine soon

  • IGE

  • Photo by Kelsey Walling/Tribune-Herald A Hawaiian Airlines plane flies over Hilo Bay to land at the Hilo International Airport.

Gov. David Ige hopes to end the 14-day quarantines for passengers on interisland flights “very soon” as a test for an eventual full reopening of out-of-state travel.

During a news conference Tuesday, Ige celebrated the fact that Tuesday was Hawaii’s third consecutive day with no new reported COVID-19 cases, saying the consistent lack of new cases means the state can prepare to gradually reopen more of its industries — in particular travel and tourism.

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“I expect to announce the end of the interisland travel quarantine very soon,” Ige said during the conference. “And we are finalizing the plans to reopen tourism. Now the key is to make sure we keep COVID-19 under control.”

Quarantines for out-of-state travelers were imposed March 21, with interisland quarantines taking effect April 1. Both policies were implemented to mitigate the potential spread of COVID-19 throughout the state.

While Ige did not name a specific date for when interisland quarantines would end, he said that process will serve as a model for ending out-of-state travel quarantines and reopening the tourism industry.

“We do know that the prevalence of the virus right now is equal across all counties, so it would allow us to test the system and identify any additional gaps prior to receiving visitors from … across the country or internationally,” Ige said, adding that the process would be “a careful, phased reopening of activity that would allow us to do it in a way that puts the health and safety of our community first and allows for reasonable expansion of business activity.”

Ige said he understands the importance of reopening the tourism industry as soon as possible, but added he doesn’t want to have to reverse course if a hasty reopening causes a new surge in COVID-19 cases. As such, he declined to commit to any timeline, however broad, for reopening.

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During the news conference, Pankaj Bahnot, director of the state Department of Human Services, also announced an $11.9 million block grant to provide support for child care providers in order to ease the transition back to a reopened economy. Child care providers were allowed to reopen under strict conditions following Ige’s emergency proclamation last week.

Email Michael Brestovansky at mbrestovansky@hawaiitribune-herald.com.

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