Vaccine passport program could be announced today

  • IGE

Gov. David Ige hinted that an official announcement would be made today concerning when interisland travelers with proof of vaccination against COVID-19 will be allowed to bypass testing and quarantine restrictions.

“We had a couple of very good meetings with the mayors last week, and we are that close to making an announcement,” Ige said Monday during a Facebook Live stream, holding his thumb and forefinger a fraction of an inch apart.

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“We’ll probably be having a public announcement (today)” about the so-called vaccine passport program, he said.

Lt. Gov. Josh Green on April 12 said the state likely would have the vaccination verification program for interisland travelers in place on May 1, but Ige, the following day, wouldn’t commit to that date.

On Monday, the governor described the details of a digital verification process and setting up screening procedures at the state’s airports as “a huge logistics challenge.”

“We want to make sure we have the systems in place,” the governor said. “… Our contractor on the Safe Travels program is incorporating vaccinations into the program. We’re really trying to automate as much as we can. So, we would like to verify with the state vaccination database that (someone) actually got the vaccine … and if we can do it electronically, that would really speed a lot of things.

“We realize that it would be a great opportunity for the local economy, especially for inter-county, and we do intend to implement something for inter-county first.”

Currently, interisland travelers to Kauai, Maui and the Big Island must receive a negative COVID-19 test within 72 hours of departure or undergo a 10-day quarantine.

Ige said implementation of vaccination verification procedures for interisland travelers would give the state more time to work on verification procedures for trans-Pacific arrivals — which have averaged about 20,000 a day for the past couple of weeks.

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“It’s a lot harder to verify vaccinations done in other states,” he said. “And that’s a bigger challenge. But we’re going to start with people vaccinated in the state of Hawaii first. One of the challenges is that not every state implemented the vaccine record in the same way. And so there may be some that may be more difficult to verify. But we’re hopeful that if we can start with … those vaccinated in the state, then that gives us additional time to … get into the national networks that … will be able to roll it out for trans-Pacific soon.”

Email John Burnett at jburnett@hawaiitribune-herald.com.