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Ige says loosening of restrictions on travel unlikely by end of this month

State restrictions on travel to Hawaii are unlikely to be loosened by Oct. 1, Gov. David Ige said Monday.

Throughout the pandemic, Ige has discussed a pre-travel testing program whereby out-of-state travelers could submit a negative COVID-19 test to avoid the mandatory 14-day quarantine upon arrival in Hawaii.

The implementation of that program has been repeatedly delayed as the pandemic worsened in Hawaii.

“Talking with many in the industry, it will probably not be Oct. 1,” Ige said during an online interview.

While the state implemented the Safe Travels Hawaii app to manage and monitor travelers’ quarantines, Ige said hotels and other businesses in the tourism industry will require at least a month of lead time in order to rehire staff and become ready for incoming visitors. He added that within the next few days he will announce more concrete plans for when the state will reopen further to out-of-state travelers.

Mayor Harry Kim said Monday he was glad Ige chose to postpone the removal of travel restrictions because the state still is unprepared for an influx of visitors.

“I’ve been telling him since Day One, he shouldn’t have established a date like that for something we’re not ready for,” Kim said.

Kim said he thinks the state cannot safely reopen while there is still a lockdown on Oahu — nonessential businesses remain closed until Sept. 24 — and without a more robust and effective means of monitoring arriving travelers.

But even though the Safe Travels app allows the state to check whether travelers are obeying quarantine, Kim said the state also should look at COVID-19 case numbers around the world and ask whether reopening travel from certain places is worth the risk.

Despite the uptick in cases in Hawaii during the past month, the state still has the eighth-fewest cases of any U.S. state, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Lt. Gov. Josh Green said last week that he thought the state likely could reopen on Oct. 1. Green has since contracted COVID-19.

Meanwhile, Ige said the state processed more than 100,000 applicants for the $300 federal Lost Wages Assistance unemployment program during the weekend.

Ige said the state has paid out more than $3 billion in unemployment insurance and pandemic unemployment insurance claims since March.

He also reassured residents that changes to the state’s unemployment processing apparatus will allow claims to be processed more quickly in the coming weeks.

Applicants can apply for unemployment insurance and pandemic unemployment insurance at labor.hawaii.gov.

Email Mike Brestovansky at mbrestovansky@hawaiitribune-herald.com.
Source: Hawaii Tribune Herald

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