Editorial: Refine policies for safe travel get a room cheap November 1, 2020 Travel-Tips 0 Comments Mahalo for supporting Honolulu Star-Advertiser. Enjoy this free story! Launching the pre-travel testing program has been hailed as a needed step to kickstart Hawaii tourism — and it is exactly that. Presenting a current, negative test for COVID-19 secures the visitor a waiver from the state’s longstanding 14-day quarantine for all arriving travelers. What it’s not: a formula that guarantees a quick economic rebound. Beyond the coming expansion to include the Japanese tourist market, success will require better implementation and clear messaging for visitors and local residents alike. All that is in the works, officials say, but it’s needed now. After the initial rush of arrivals after the program launched Oct. 15, the traffic has slowed, industry watchers said, and anything approaching significant recovery is still months away. Last week, just the second week of the program, arrivals fell 25% compared with the first. It’s not surprising — the entire mainland, caught up in an election and an accelerating caseload of COVID-19, is not in an optimal place for planning vacations. And a slowdown here does afford time to get things in better shape for the anticipated larger crowds. There is still hope that Hawaii can brand itself as a place that is managing outbreaks to remain a relatively safe refuge while the world waits for a vaccine. But before that happens, a lot of work remains to iron out wrinkles in the testing program, in the availability of tests and the efficiency of the screening system. The key to reviving Hawaii’s largely service economy is to convince consumers, both visitors and kamaaina, that the virus is under control. To this end, Hawaii residents still have to demonstrate they can stay the course, taking care with mask-wearing, distancing and hygiene to avoid spreading this disease. The hard truth is that the U.S. has only reached about the midpoint in the pandemic. The state’s effort to create the Safe Travels Hawaii health-screening and testing program was to find that “sweet spot” balancing public health concerns against the effects of pandemic restrictions on businesses and jobs, said Maj. Gen. Kenneth Hara, director of the Hawaii Emergency Management Agency, interviewed Friday on the Honolulu Star-Advertiser’s Spotlight Hawaii webcast. He acknowledged that there have been kinks in the processing of arrivals, some of whom ended up in quarantine for a time because their test results were not delivered. One problem he cited was travelers uploading files to the site that were unreadable; also, some lab platforms needed a fix for their data to be read properly, too. Most of this has been addressed, he said, and increased staffing was deployed to deal with the backlog. Such problems surely can’t be tolerated if tourism is to resume at an acceptable level. Further, the tourists need plainspoken education about state laws, at every step of the way; unifying masking mandates statewide should be part of that. Hara added that simpler enforcement tools, similar to issuing a traffic ticket, will require new legislation — something that deserves prompt attention. Hara was also bullish about the future availability of enough tests to enable rechecks, especially for those visiting multiple islands, and cheaper, faster tests that will still offer the accuracy the program needs. The goal is to process 15,000 tests daily, and new equipment, purchased through federal pandemic relief funds, is weeks away from use in at least one of the labs, he said. Along with recent improvements in contact tracing capabilities, this is encouraging, and the approval of pre-travel testing for Japanese visitors also stands out as a bit of good news. When those travelers begin arriving on Friday, Japan will be the first international market allowed to have a waiver from quarantine in Hawaii. However, this advance may offer more potential than promise, at least in the near term. As important a market as Japan represents, its residents are not expected to flock back to the islands. One disincentive is the Japanese government’s requirement that returning Japanese travelers must go right into a 14-day quarantine. Additionally, the Japan still lists the U.S. under a “level three” travel restriction, which advises its citizens to “reconsider travel” to the U.S. The hope, of course, is that Hawaii will have a niche status as a safe, appealing destination for travel. How to earn that? Securing the state’s relatively low infection tally requires facing the plain facts. The Three Ws (watch distance, wash hands, wear masks) are essential components that get jettisoned while people are in a party mood. The immediate example is Halloween. In Waikiki and in private homes as well, some backsliding was inevitable but not worth the price to be paid. If in two weeks infection spikes again, present restrictions stay in place. Compounding the public health risk, a spike also would post a flashing sign warning visitors to “stay away.” That’s an end result Hawaii can scarcely afford. Source link Tags: Editorial, policies, Refine, safe, Travel Continue Reading Previous PostPreview: Buckeyes travel to Penn State for top-20 showdownNext PostLIVE BLOG: Saints (4-2) travel to Chicago to take on the Bears (5-2) get a room cheap saving people money in the travel industry for decades. 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