Hawaii will end its Covid-19 travel requirements for domestic travelers on March 26, Gov. David Ige said Tuesday as the state takes its strongest steps yet toward restoring normalcy after some two years in crisis mode.

The decision to end the Safe Travels program means travelers coming from other states or U.S. territories no longer have to provide proof of vaccination or a negative Covid test to avoid a five-day quarantine upon arrival in the islands. Ige also said state and county employees will no longer be subject to the vaccine-or-test requirements.

While both measures were included in the state’s Covid emergency proclamation, which expires at midnight on March 25, Ige made no promises on whether he would extend the proclamation once more.

Daniel K. Inouye International Airport during COVID-19 pandemic as Hawaii reopens to transpacific arrivals on October 15, 2020
Travelers wait in line at the Daniel K. Inouye International Airport. Gov. David Ige announced Hawaii’s Safe Travels program will end March 26. Cory Lum/Civil Beat/2020

Ige said he and the state Department of Health were still reviewing whether to lift the indoor mask mandate, which remains in place for now. Hawaii is the last state to maintain a statewide mask mandate.

“The state of Hawaii is the only statewide public school system, so we are working with the public schools about mask requirements and about Covid protocols in the public schools. We’re the only state that runs the jails, and we run all the jail facilities across the state,” he said.

“And we’re the only state that manages all the hospitals in the counties as well. So our situation in Hawaii is more complex than other areas, and certainly we’ll be looking at all these issues as we make decisions about mask requirements,” he added.

Ige also stressed that vaccination was still required for international, non-U.S. resident travelers under federal rules, plus proof of negative Covid test or recovery from a recent Covid infection for all international travelers, regardless of nationality or vaccination status.

“The pandemic is not over,” Ige said at a press conference. He urged people to continue to take precautions.

The announcement came a day after Honolulu Mayor Rick Blangiardi announced that he was lifting all Covid restrictions, including vaccine mandates for dining at restaurants and entering other entertainment venues, beginning Sunday.

Maui, Hawaii County and Kauai all are lifting their county-level restrictions as well.

Pressure has increased for the state to ease Covid measures as an omicron-driven surge in cases has ebbed. Hawaii reported a seven-day average of 201 cases per day and no new deaths on Tuesday.

“We’re not done with Covid-19, but we do recognize that we have to transition to the new normal,” Ige said.

The pandemic hit the islands hard when the first case was detected in March 2020, forcing the tourism industry to shut down and leaving the state with the highest unemployment rate in the nation.

Safe Travels was introduced in October 2020 as a way for Hawaii arrivals to avoid the then-14-day mandatory quarantine by showing a negative Covid test from an approved provider. By July 2021, the program opened up to allow all fully-vaccinated US travelers to skip the quarantine, which by then had been lowered to 10 days and later five days.

Since its onset, the Safe Travels program had been mired in logistical problems as travelers suffered through long lines and glitchy databases that frequently resulted in hourslong delays. Eventually, airlines stepped in to help reduce pressure on Hawaii airport workers by pre-clearing passengers before boarding.

Ige had, reportedly, been weighing whether to require a booster to be considered fully vaccinated under Safe Travels, but pulled back as the omicron surge subsided.

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