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Governor outlines blueprint for lifting travel restrictions as vaccination rates increase

Published: Jun. 4, 2021 at 10:44 AM HST|Updated: Jun. 4, 2021 at 5:41 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Starting June 15, Hawaii will expand its popular “vaccine passport” program to those traveling trans-Pacific who have been vaccinated in Hawaii.

The news was one of several headlines from a news conference Friday afternoon.

Gov. David Ige also announced that:

  • All Neighbor Island travel restrictions will be lifted June 15, in anticipation of the state reaching the goal of 55% of residents fully vaccinated.
  • Once the state reaches 60% of residents vaccinated, the state will expand the vaccine passport program to incoming trans-Pacific travelers vaccinated anywhere in the US.
  • When the state reaches 70% vaccinated, all travel restrictions will end. At that vaccination level, the governor said, restrictions on businesses and the mask mandate will also be dropped.
  • And to bolster vaccination efforts, the state has partnered with local companies to launch a vaccination incentive program that includes a host of big prizes.

Right now, 52% of the state’s population is fully vaccinated and 59% are partially vaccinated.

The governor said the blueprint for easing restrictions is a living one ― and that the state will “always take appropriate action should there be a health crisis in our community.”

He added, “I can and will change policies based on the health conditions that we see and the rate of virus circulating in our community.”

The planned expansion of the vaccine passport comes nearly a month after the state started allowing fully vaccinated residents to forgo quarantine and testing while traveling inter-island.

That program has proved incredibly popular ― and a boon to local businesses.

At the same time, Hawaii is seeing a flood of trans-Pacific travelers through its Safe Travels program. They are currently required to test negative for COVID before arrival in order to skip quarantine.

Hawaiian Airlines President and CEO Peter Ingram said while the increase in travelers is positive for the state’s recovery, the economy still has a long way to go before things are back to normal.

“The last 15 months have been a very difficult time for our tourism sector, which is the engine of Hawaii’s economy,” he said, adding he looks forward to the state lifting restrictions entirely. “While we have seen some recovery, things are still not back. There are still many businesses that are suffering.”

A number of residents HNN spoke to Friday supported the push to ease restrictions.

“There’s a lot of hoops to jump through, it seems like to come and visit,” said Oahu resident Kylee Kim. “So it would be nice to make it more streamlined for everybody or just maybe remove some steps.”

Holden Sagucio, also of Oahu, said it’s time for the restrictions to lighten up.

“In the beginning, I could understand it. But as time went on, you know, the states are kind of like opening up. I feel like Hawaii should start doing that as well,” Sagucio said.

Others, though, are still concerned about safety.

“I think they should keep it the same,” said resident Riezel Escoto. “Because although it’s easing down a bit with the vaccine. You know, just in case. any spikes comes up.”

Everyone 12 and over in Hawaii is eligible to get vaccinated and there are efforts underway to improve access and offer incentives for more people to roll up their sleeves.

[Read more: Trips to Vegas, Zippy’s for a year: Hawaii offers incentives to bolster vaccinations]

While Hawaii is well ahead of other states when it comes to getting the vaccine to more people, state Health Department officials are quick to note that vaccination rates vary widely by community.

New maps from the state Health Department show that in some Oahu communities, vaccination rates top 70%. In others, though, only about a third of residents have rolled up their sleeves.

This story will be updated.

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