Nearly 20 visitors have been turned away from Hawaii airports and helped with return flight fares, many of them after violating the state’s mandatory 14-day quarantine order during the COVID-19 pandemic, state officials reported Thursday.

About $25,000 in funds from the Hawaii Tourism Authority have been disbursed to the Visitor Aloha Society of Hawaii, which has coordinated return flights for 19 people to date, back to more than six U.S. airports and Guam.

“During this unprecedented public health crisis, we are supporting the return of individuals who arrive from the mainland, who do not have pre-arranged lodging and may need financial assistance for their return flights,” said Jessica Lani Rich, VASH president and CEO.

Upon arrival, tourist and residents receive an Order for Self-Quarantine form, which is handled by either the Department of Transportation or the Hawaii Tourism Authority.

Cory Lum/Civil Beat

According to the Department of the Attorney General, some travelers had prearranged lodging in the islands and others did not. This week, four people have been arrested on Oahu for violating the mandatory 14-day quarantine order. An Australian man and a Las Vegas woman were arrested by attorney general special agents after their hotel received complaints that they’d been outdoors repeatedly and not in their rooms as required by the order.

Also this week, Honolulu Police Department officers arrested a California man and a woman in Aala Park for violating the emergency rules. Officials did not specify whether or not they had lodging arranged.

Visitors and returning residents are required to self-quarantine for 14 days, according to a state emergency proclamation. Otherwise they risk a $5,000 fine or jail time.

Quarantine violations are misdemeanors and may be resolved in absentia. Those arrested may pay fines in lieu of returning to Hawaii for trials.

HTA and the state transportation department follow up by phone with visitors and returning residents to verify that they are staying in their hotels or homes. The Hawaii Visitors and Convention Bureau and HTA have made 11,000 calls since the quarantine rules took effect on March 26. If call center workers fail to contact someone, they alert law enforcement, according to the Hawaii COVID-19 Joint Information Center, which handles COVID-19 communications for all State agencies.

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