The Hawaii House Speaker has asked colleagues to kill a measure that would have established a statewide COVID-19 travel testing program, saying Hawaii’s various counties have adopted the same testing regime without the need for a mandate.

House Speaker Scott Saiki’s request on Wednesday to House Finance Committee Chair Sylvia Luke comes as Hawaii’s tourism industry has shown significant signs of recovery and as the state ramps up vaccinations.

Scott Saiki
House Speaker Scott Saiki on Wednesday said Gov. David Ige could still order changes to improve the Safe Travels program. Screenshot

Hawaii’s travel program lets travelers sidestep a required 10-day quarantine if they receive a negative test within a three-day window before departing for Hawaii.

The program has been credited with reviving Hawaii’s tourism business and keeping case counts relatively low; however, in November, after seeing as many as five new cases of the virus a day, Kauai opted out of the program.

The move created consternation among tourism executives, who said the inconsistent policies created confusion for travelers. And Saiki proposed legislation that would have required the various islands to operate under one system.

But earlier this week, amidst widening vaccinations in Hawaii and the U.S. continent, Kauai opted back into the program, which is called Safe Travels. As a consequence, Saiki asked Luke to kill the Senate bill that has become the vehicle for the policy.

“The county-by-county inconsistency was and continues to cause confusion for residents and visitors traveling to Hawaii and between our islands,” Saiki said in a statement. But, he went on to say, “Now that the counties are all together, we do not need to advance this legislation.”

The measure also addressed another sticking point for Hawaii’s visitor industry: travelers who do not receive a negative test result before departing for Hawaii still must quarantine for 10 days, even if the result comes back negative.

Saiki said Gov. David Ige could still amend that provision by requiring such travelers to take a test upon landing in Hawaii.

“He could still order that,” Saiki said.

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