The state of Hawaii is preparing to loosen some of the strict pandemic restrictions that have hammered its tourism industry, including the requirement that arriving travelers spend 14 days in quarantine.
Starting on Oct. 15, travelers will be allowed to skip the quarantine if they can show a negative virus test result from an approved source, taken no more than 72 hours before departure. The pre-travel testing program had been set to begin over the summer, but was postponed when the virus surged on the islands.
Travelers who do not want to be tested can still opt to quarantine instead, raising concerns that untested travelers could infect tested passengers on flights to the islands.
A negative test is not a guarantee of lack of infection: It can take several days after exposure for the amount of virus in an infected person’s body to rise high enough to produce a positive result. The state said it would randomly test 10 percent of incoming passengers four days after arrival to assess the plan’s effectiveness.
Hawaii has reported more than 13,000 cases of the virus, and more than 160 deaths, according to a New York Times database. The state will continue to require wearing a mask in public, and some inter-island travel will remain restricted.
The new measures are meant to help revive the state’s tourism industry, which makes up about a quarter of its economy. The Hawaii Tourism Authority reported in August that travel to the islands the previous month was down almost 98 percent compared with the same month in 2019.
“It’s important that people know we welcome them as long as they’ve gotten their test,” Lt. Gov. Josh Green told The Associated Press. Mr. Green, an emergency room doctor, is heading the new testing program. He recently recovered from Covid-19.