Pointing out that Hawaii wants to kick-start its booming tourism and hospitality industries, Governor David Y. Ige said his state will ease Covid restrictions this month and welcome international travelers again, according to new federal guidelines that will take effect Nov. 8. .
The governor’s decision was a turnaround for a state that just two months ago advised travelers not to visit because it treated the worst increase in coronavirus cases it has seen, a wave of disease caused by the highly contagious Delta variant that overwhelmed hospitals and hospitals. halted Hawaii’s economic recovery.
During the peak of the pandemic in 2020, Hawaii endured months of confinement, imposing strict, 14-day quarantine protocols and suffering the economic consequences to its tourism economy.
Now, with low rates of hospitalizations and new cases, the islands are once again ready for trade, officials say. On Sept. 2, the state’s seven-day daily average of new cases was 910. By Tuesday, it had dropped to 116, according to a New York Times database.
On Tuesday, the governor signed an executive order that will raise capacity limits later this month in bars, restaurants and gyms in counties that force patrons to present proof of vaccination or a recent negative coronavirus test to enter. Hawaii is divided into four main counties – one for the large island; one for Oahu; one for the islands in between, including Maui and Molokai; and one for the islands west of Oahu, including Kauai.
In a press conference, Mr Ige said the state vaccination campaign, which inoculated about 60 per cent of the eligible population, has pushed new cases and hospitalizations to a level that makes it possible to alleviate restrictions.
“Vaccination is the most widespread and important mitigation measure during this pandemic that each of us can take personal action to carry out,” the governor said in a press conference.
The governor’s executive order comes two weeks after he announced that fully vaccinated domestic tourists would be welcome to visit the islands again from November 1st.
Counties that do not require proof of vaccinations or a negative coronavirus test will still have to limit capacity in bars, restaurants and gyms to 50 percent, according to the order.
The order also says patrons must keep six feet away and wear masks while inside restaurants and bars, except while eating or drinking – a measure Honolulu Mayor Rick Blangiardi has questioned.
Mr Blangiardi said in a statement that maintaining the social distancing requirement would prevent some businesses from operating fully and “does not promote the needle for many of the affected restaurants and bars.”
However, the governor’s order was an indication that the state is making progress on the pandemic, some officials said.
“We’re slowly starting to get out of it, which is good,” Brandon JC Elephant, a member of Honolulu City Council, said in an interview Wednesday. “I think that’s an important step because we’re easing some of the limitations a bit while we continue to pay attention to our positivity index,” he said.