The US island state of Hawaii, a popular destination for tourists seeking golden beaches and excellent weather, has announced that it is interested in creating COVID “travel bubbles” or “air bridges” with several countries that have largely contained the coronavirus, including Australia and New Zealand.
Speaking on Wednesday, Hawaii Governor David Ige stated that, starting in August, Americans from other states can now travel to Hawaii without having to quarantine upon arrival, provided they tested negative for COVID-19 before they embarked (and can prove it).
“Beginning August 1, travelers who have a valid negative Covid-19 test prior to arriving will not be subject to the 14-day mandatory quarantine,” Ige said.
He added that his government is working to establish special corridors with low-infection countries like Australia, New Zealand, South Korea and Japan. This has been challenging, for reasons that are quite clear: the United States is a veritable cesspit of coronavirus infection. The whole country is septic.
According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 2.37 million Americans have tested positive for the virus, and more than 121,000 have died. On 24 June, there were a whopping 37,667 new cases. To put that into perspective: Australia’s total case number is around 7,500.
Obviously, governments are a little wary about having anything at all to do with the United States right now. But Governor Ige stressed that Hawaii is an exception, with around 800 total cases.
“We recognize that there are many concerns that continue,” Ige said. “We believe this process of pre-testing does allow us to bring travelers back to Hawaii in a way that maintains a priority on the health and safety of our community.”
As for that negative COVID test—the one that will enable you to go to Hawaii without quarantining—it will have to have been administered no more than 72 hours prior to arrival. Additionally, travelers will be screened for temperatures and other symptoms upon arrival.
Hawaii is hurting badly after the pandemic flattened its tourism industry—a major component of the state’s economy. In 2019 Hawaii had more than 10 million visitors, nearly ten times the number of residents. Thanks to the pandemic, 240,000 residents are out of a job. Pretty soon the whole state will show up on a bankruptcy search.
“We need to return to welcoming visitors to our shores,” Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell said. “For the state of Hawaii, we have approximately 240,000 unemployed people. We’re not going to see a return to a level of employment that we had before unless we open up to visitors.”