Updated: October 1, 2022
Proposed changes have been approved by the governor for the state’s Safe Travels program in Maui County. Trans-Pacific travelers arriving at Kahului Airport will soon be required to undergo a mandatory secondary COVID-19 rapid test upon arrival, or face a mandatory 10-day quarantine.
Mayor Michael Victorino said he had hoped to start the program this Friday, but implementation is delayed due to the timing of the governor’s approval and the time needed to get equipment in place and workers trained in the system. Mayor Victorino said it will take at least 10 working days to get the program in place, but should be up and running before the end of the month.
When the County is confident that the program is able to start, he said “ample notice” will be given so that travelers understand that upon arriving on Maui on a trans-Pacific flight (including travel from the mainland), that they will be subject to a secondary rapid post test, even if they take the required pre-test 72 hours prior to departure of the final leg of their trip to Hawaiʻi.
The pre-test, which has been in place since Oct. 15, 2020, and is paid for and arranged by the traveler themselves. Under the existing program, the state of Hawai‘i will ONLY accept Nucleic Acid Amplification Test from a certified Clinical Laboratory Improvement Amendment lab test results from TRUSTED TESTING AND TRAVEL PARTNERS. A negative COVID-19 test result is required prior to departure to avoid quarantine in Hawai‘i.
The secondary test upon arrival in Kahului, will be paid for by the County of Maui. On Monday, Gov. Ige said that while he supports a secondary test, he does not believe the cost of the additional test should be passed on to the traveler and said the counties would have to pay for it or find a way to finance it in order for it to be implemented.
“The county is willing to cover the cost to make sure returning visitors and residents are tested and safe,” said Mayor Victorino.
He said challenges are anticipated, especially during the three to four hour period when 10-12 trans-Pacific flights arrive. “Sometimes flights are delayed,” adding an extra element to factor in, and some days the “crunch time” can include even more flights on the schedule.
Mayor Victorino said the secondary test is designed to determine if visitors and returning residents are contributing to an uptick in cases. If the secondary test reveals higher rates, the mayor said the county may consider moving between tiers. “Until we do testing and get the facts on the table, I’ll reserve comments,” said Mayor Victorino, opting instead to look at positivity rates from secondary testing.
As for his proposal seeking inclusion of Maui County in a vaccine passport program, Mayor Victorino said he does not expect its implementation “for some time.” Hawaiʻi could have a partial vaccine passport program available by summer, but state officials were weary of providing an exact date.
When asked of his thoughts on civil liberty opposition to such programs and concerns raised over privacy and inequality issues, Mayor Victorino said travelers have a choice. He said that while the vaccine passport program seeks to allow an exemption from quarantine for those who are fully vaccinated, he said “like anything else, it is a choice… we’re not making the decision for you.” He noted that vaccines are free, and are not required. “It’s your right to take it…. It’s your right not to… It’s not a matter of you being forced to, it’s just choosing which option you choose to do,” he said.