Ige announces plans for trans-Pacific travel, but future of inter-island quarantine unclear

Updated: Sep. 16, 2020 at 4:39 PM HST
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HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - Gov. Ige announced an Oct. 15 date for the state to launch their trans-Pacific pre-testing program, giving a glimmer of hope to Hawaii’s tourism industry.

But when asked about a date to lift the inter-island traveler quarantine to allow Hawaii families to reconnect and travel to neighbor islands freely, he said discussions with county mayors are still underway.

Ige reiterated that the inter-island traveler quarantine began as a way to prevent the spread of COVID-19 within the state. It was put into place earlier this year, then lifted in June as case counts dropped.

But when a second wave of COVID-19 infections hit Oahu, a modified version was instituted in August.

In a news release after the governor’s news conference Wednesday, the state said the modified inter-island quarantine remains in place “through Sept. 30 unless terminated or extended” by proclamation.

Ige did point to a promising drop in new cases on Oahu, which will be a factor to when the rule is lifted.

The lack of clarity on the plan for the inter-island quarantine comes amid questions about how the trans-Pacific testing program will work. Ige acknowledged some details must still need to be hammered out.

“The last few days, we’ve seen a significant reduction in the number of new cases that we’re seeing, so we will continue to monitor that prevalence of the virus here, and we are having discussions with the mayors about when the inter-island 14-day mandatory quarantine can be ended,” Ige said.

When questioned about applying the pre-testing program to neighbor island travel, Ige said, “Certainly we are in discussions about different ways that we can facilitate inter-island travel.”

The Senate COVID-19 committee has previously suggested the pilot program for inter-island travel, but Ige said what the program would look like, how to pull it off and when to start it isn’t near the finalized stage.

“When the virus counts on Oahu is reduced to a level that the concern about spread to neighbor island residents is reduced, then we will drop the quarantine,” Ige said.

He added: “We want to assure the public that we are making decisions based on the data that we see, and in their best interest to protect the health and safety of our community."

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