End of US testing rule for international travelers draws both applause and concern in Hawaii
HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Summer travel is picking up and it’s poised to get busier now that international travelers no longer must show a negative COVID test before boarding a flight to the U.S.
But some are concerned about the decision, especially as Hawaii sees COVID cases climb.
UH Travel Professor Jerry Agrusa said lifting the test requirement comes at a bad time.
“Most people want to go and travel safely and if they know that it’s safer, especially with our Japanese tourists, they are very averse to any type of danger,” Agrusa explained. “And this, this actually could hurt us.”
Agrusa said visitors from Japan are an important part of Hawaii’s tourism industry.
According to the Hawaii Tourism Authority, Hawaii saw 1.5 million visitors from Japan in 2019.
Mufi Hannemann, president and CEO of the Hawaii Lodging and Tourism Association, said they want to see restrictions lifted across the board.
COVID tests are still required before boarding the plane back to Japan so Japanese tourists may worry about visiting places with high case numbers.
“We want to make it easy for people to come here for us to visit them and then also as they return back to their countries and be able to not face as many hurdles as they do,” said Hannemann.
But Hannemann said this is no time for the community to relax as COVID cases could be an impediment for people wanting to come here.
“The last thing that we want to see is continued increases and positive test results here that we’ve worked so hard to decrease over the past year,” said Hannemann.
Health experts say Hawaii has been a COVID hotspot for weeks — with the surge headed into its third month.
The CDC recommends masks indoors and on public transportation.
Epidemiologist DeWolfe Miller said lifting the test requirement is concerning.
“We have a lot of cases, we have a lot of people in hospitals,” said Miller. “We have a lot of people who work in the hospital industry, doctors, nurses, and so on, who are out sick.”
Although there is no longer a testing requirement to fly into the U.S., the CDC recommends taking a COVID test before and after traveling.
“I’m still hoping everybody will be cautious and take the precautions that we have available,” said Miller.
Non-U.S. citizens will still have to show proof of vaccination.
The CDC said the testing mandate could return if needed. They will reassess the decision in about 90 days.
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