The coronavirus pandemic has canceled a lot of things, but your summer vacation doesn’t have to be one of them.
Japan is considering allowing travelers from certain countries and regions to travel there again during the coronavirus pandemic, including one U.S. state: Hawaii. This comes as the state continues to restrict travel from the U.S. mainland amid an uptick in coronavirus cases in Hawaii and the continental U.S..
Prime Minister of Japan Shinzo Abe and Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi are considering the resumption of international travel between the country and a dozen other areas, Motegi said at a recent press conference : Brunei, Cambodia, China, Hong Kong, Macao, Laos, Malaysia, Mongolia, Myanmar, the Republic of Korea (ROK), Singapore and Taiwan. Europe and Hawaii would be next on the list for consideration, according to Hawaii Gov. David Ige.
“Japan and Hawaii enjoy longstanding cultural ties and a deep-rooted friendship that has enriched the lives of many generations,” Ige said in a statement on Wednesday. “It’s important that we restore travel between Japan and Hawaii and we see this program as a way to make this possible, while also preventing the further spread of infections from COVID-19.”
Hawaii House Speaker Scott Saiki added of the reciprocal relationship: “It’s just as important for Hawaii residents to be able to travel again to Japan to connect with family members, conduct business and experience historic cultural sites, as it is for us to welcome the people of Japan back to Hawaii.”
There’s no timetable for when this would happen. Ige said public health will inform the rollout of the program, which would bolster the state’s economic recovery.
In late June, the governor’s office announced that travelers could visit Hawaii beginning Aug. 1, no quarantine required, by presenting a negative COVID-19 test taken within 72 hours of boarding a flight. Without one, passengers arriving from the mainland would have to strictly quarantine for 14 days, a policy in place since March that has scared away most tourists and wrecked Hawaii’s tourism industry.
Hawaii delayed its plan to allow out-of-state visitors to return to the vacation hot spot without quarantining until September because of an increase in coronavirus cases in the state and on the U.S. mainland. The surge in cases has made it harder for people in many states to get tested. Hawaii in particular has been aggressive on traveler requirements through mandatory quarantines, not to mention arrests and fines.
Many in Hawaii’s business community had looked forward to the testing program as it would make it easier for tourists to visit and potentially boost the economy. The quarantine requirement has virtually shut down tourism to the state.
Hawaii has 1,711 coronavirus cases as of Tuesday morning, with 318 cases appearing in the last week. Hawaii is among the states with case numbers that grew the fastest in the past week, including New Jersey, Connecticut, Alaska and Missouri. The U.S. in total has nearly 4.3 million cases. Japan has had more than 32,000 cases, and the case count is growing, according to Johns Hopkins data.
Despite this potential resumption of travel, Japan is currently strengthening its quarantine procedures and is expanding its restricted areas of entry, according to the Japan National Tourism Organization.
Contributing: Dawn Gilbertson, USA TODAY; The Associated Press
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