Hawaii to lift strict travel requirements this month

People take in the sun and surf on Waikiki Beach in Honolulu, Hawaii, early February 20, 2022. (Photo by Daniel SLIM / AFP) (Photo by DANIEL SLIM/AFP via Getty Images)
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Hawaii will lift its strict entry requirements later this month, eliminating its self-quarantine requirement and allowing domestic travelers to enter the state more easily.

Starting March 26, domestic visitors will no longer have to show proof of vaccination or a negative test result to bypass a mandatory five-day quarantine as part of the state's Safe Travels program, Gov. David Ige, a Democrat, announced Tuesday.

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International travelers to Hawaii will still be subject to U.S. rules of providing proof of a negative test taken no more than 24 hours before departure and proof of vaccination.

"We started the Safe Travels program to protect the health, lives, and livelihoods of the people of Hawaii," Ige said in a statement. "The program put in place safety protocols that included a multi-layered screening and testing approach that kept our communities safe during the COVID-19 surges that endangered the most vulnerable of our citizens. Right now, we are seeing lower case counts, and hospitalizations are coming down."

The state's mask mandate will remain in place, and Ige said that officials are "watching disease activity closely across the state, the country, and globally, and we will adjust accordingly to keep our entire community healthy." Hawaii is the only state that has yet to drop a statewide indoor mask mandate.

The Safe Travels program started in October 2020 and required testing and other steps to enter the popular destination. Lt. Gov. Josh Green, a Democrat, told The Washington Post in February that officials were considering eliminating all entry restrictions by spring, in the absence of any additional coronavirus surges. New cases in the state have trended downward after a spike caused by the highly contagious omicron variant.

Last year, officials had said Hawaii would lift travel restrictions after the state was 70% vaccinated, but omicron derailed that. According to tracking data compiled by The Washington Post through Wednesday, 77.2% of the state's population is fully vaccinated.

At one point during the surge, Ige said the state was considering a booster shot requirement for vaccinated visitors, but he nixed the idea last month.

American visitors have flocked to Hawaii during the pandemic, and the state's economy depends heavily on tourism. Green told The Post last month that tourism was around 30 to 40% below numbers in 2019, but it had almost returned to the baseline before the omicron wave hit.

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