HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - In a big step toward fully reopening the state, the governor on Monday announced the mandatory, 14-day quarantine for inter-island travelers will be lifted June 16.
Gov. David Ige made the announcement at a news conference at Honolulu’s airport, and said the quarantine requirement is being lifted as other safety protocols are put into place.
He said reopening inter-island travel will be a test run of sorts for reopening all travel to Hawaii.
“We want to have you travel to reconnect with friends and family in a safe way,” Ige said.
State Attorney General Clare Connors said once the quarantine is lifted, inter-island travelers will undergo a temperature check and complete a declaration form. Using a master list, authorities will also confirm that they’re not mainland or international travelers, who are still subject to a quarantine.
Business leaders and others, including Lt. Gov. Josh Green, have called on the governor in recent days to lift the inter-island quarantine as the number of new COVID-19 cases remains low.
However, business experts said the so-called “kamaaina economy” can only go so far in boosting sales for businesses, who are seeing just a small fraction of their usual volume.
“Unfortunately for a lot of our retailers, we depend mostly on the tourists that come in from the mainland the from Asia and from Europe and from all over the world,” said Tina Yamaki, president of Retail Merchants of Hawaii.
State Department of Health Director Bruce Anderson said the state is ready for inter-island travel to resume safely, but acknowledged the number of cases will go up as more people gather.
“We have contact tracers on all islands. We’ve got the capacity in our laboratories. As cases occur, we’ll be on it quickly,” Anderson said. “We are ready.”
Authorities noted that anyone traveling inter-island before June 16 will still be required to quarantine.
Some local residents are raring to travel to the neighbor islands.
“Yeah, going see our ohana on Kauai,” said Oahu resident Kevin Okimoto. “It’ll be good for us to get to go there and hang out with our family and friends.”
The Sheraton Princess Kaiulani in Waikiki said it would open to kamaaina with a special room rate from June 16 to July 31, along with several discounts, including free parking for one vehicle and no resort charge. It’s likely other hotels will follow suit.
But Yamaki notes that fewer residents will be able to afford to travel, even interisland.
“With so many people unemployed or at least in everybody family someone’s paycheck got cut or they just don’t have their job right now,” said Yamaki. “Finances are a little tight.”
Hawaiian Airlines CEO Peter Ingram said that the carrier is currently flying 20 round-trip, inter-island flights each day. They’re taking off with only about 20 to 30% of seats filled.
Ingram said the airline would fill those flights to about 70% before adding new ones.
Meanwhile, the governor has previously announced he plans to extend the quarantine for mainland and international travelers beyond June 30.
On Monday, he said he hopes to make an announcement in about a week on the issue and said lifting the quarantine on trans-Pacific travel “is the next step toward restoring our economy.”
A Waikiki resident sees the lifting of the interisland quarantine as a step forward.
“One needs to return as much normal life as possible, as soon as possible, and to feel there’s a future again,” said Dina Pinos, who stopped for a moment while riding her bike along Kalakaua Avenue. “Psychologically it will make us all feel better instead of being on that constant pause.”