Ige: Shortage of tests means testing program for inter-island travel a ‘challenge’

Ige: Shortage of tests means testing program for inter-island travel a ‘challenge’

HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - The governor said Wednesday he has no plans to lift the inter-island traveler quarantine, and acknowledged a shortage of tests locally means the pre-travel testing program for trans-Pacific visitors will likely not be extended at first to include local island hoppers.

Gov. David Ige stressed that he continues to discuss the matter with county mayors. “The challenge is access to tests. Our concern is the number of tests we currently have available,” Ige said.

“All I’m saying is that testing capacity is an issue.”

The pre-travel testing program is set to launch Oct. 15, allowing trans-Pacific travelers to skirt quarantine if they arrive with a negative COVID-19 test taken within 72 hours of arrival.

But there’s no similar program for residents.

When asked about the status of a possible pilot project he had previously discussed to allow residents to get tests for inter-island travel, he said “that’s what we’re looking at” but did not elaborate.

Kauai County Mayor Derek Kawakami has proposed a second test for anyone traveling to Kauai who wants to avoid the full quarantine period.

“This program would require all travelers, transpacific and interisland, who wish to avoid a full 14-day quarantine to take a COVID test no sooner than 72 hours after arrival to Kauai,” Kawakami said during a coronavirus briefing Wednesday.

That’s different from the state’s travel testing plan, in which transpacific travelers who test negative before their trip could avoid the two-week quarantine.

But if they want to visit the Garden Isle, they’d have to take a second test -- and still have to quarantine.

“All incoming arrivals would be required to quarantine for a minimum of three days after arrival on island,” said Kawakami. “After three days, travelers could take a COVID test, and those with a negative test would be exempt from the remainder of their quarantine period.”

Maui County Mayor Mike Victorino has a similar idea.

“When you’re talking transpacific, we want to pre-test, and then 72 hours after they land, in quarantine or in their bubble resort, another test to show that they’re negative,” said Victorino.

Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell also favors a second test for transpacific arrivals on Oahu because it will likely get the most visitors when the state reopens.

“And if we did a second test for all of those folks, the capacity, the testing capacity, just is not there to do what needs to be done, so we have additional challenges that the other counties don’t have,” said Caldwell.

A number of leaders and residents have expressed frustration about the possibility of allowing trans-Pacific travelers into the state with a negative test but having no similar program for inter-island travel.

The inter-island quarantine applies to anyone traveling between islands except those coming to Oahu.

Victorino wants a plan that would including pre-arrival testing for all travelers to skip quarantine.

“If we reduce or modify or even eliminate interisland quarantine, that the test has be done before someone comes to Maui County, even if it is from another island,” he said.

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