As tourism’s relaunch nears, Ige criticized over lack of clarity on inter-island travel

State criticized over handling of inter-island travel plans

HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - Hawaii is just over two weeks away from its tourism relaunch and while there is a plan for trans-Pacific testing, the state hasn’t clarified its inter-island travel plans.

Members of the state House Select Committee on COVID-19 expressed concerns Monday about mainland travel reopening without a clear protocol for hopping between islands.

The committee has been told that Gov. David Ige is still negotiating with neighbor island mayors over how they will oversee their own testing and quarantine procedures.

[Read more: Green supports end to inter-island quarantine ahead of plan to reopen tourism]

That means Kauai could potentially have restrictions in place, while Maui does not.

“We are concerned when there is a lack of alignment between the state and the individual counties,” said committee member and Hawaii Pacific Health President Ray Vara.

“We believe that the existing program that is set to be launched on Oct. 15, if we don’t have alignment on those types of issues, it’s going to create challenges for travelers as they enter the islands.”

The situation is also a challenge for county leaders as some aren’t comfortable with varying procedures.

“I do not like, first of all, the policies need to be varied from county to county,” said Big Island Mayor Harry Kim.

There’s also the matter of exemptions on inter-island travel for essential workers.

Right now, those seeking an exemption must go through the individual counties, which have their own applications and timelines.

“There is some real problems on the policy the major inconveniences and difficulty of people who travel regularly for jobs or different kind of businesses and I think this has to be addressed,” Kim added.

“I don’t know what the answers is right now, but I do know we have to address it. At the present time, we’re gonna continue the restriction of a 14-day quarantine.”

The lack of a defined plan also presents an issue for neighbor island businesses who want to make preparations for reopening.

“I know that everyone is working very hard to try to find these answers, but they can’t,” said Wendy Laros, of the Kona-Kohala Chamber of Commerce. “I just want to say, please ― the 15th is the opening day, so it’s an urgent situation.”

A situation that some say the governor needs to take control of.

“It seems like what we’ve kind of seen is a pattern where if the state can’t handle the responsibility, then the governor just transfers it to the counties,” said House Speaker Scott Saiki.

In a statement Monday, Ige said delegating authority to the mayors on inter-island travel makes sense.

“Mayors are given the authority to act on behalf of their communities because they understand the unique circumstances in each of our counties,” he said.

“As the COVID-19 case numbers began to climb on Oʻahu, I worked with the mayors to institute an inter-island quarantine. We are continuing to work together to develop the inter-island travel protocols and will share information as decisions are made.”

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