Hawaiʻi plans to lift its COVID-19 quarantine requirement for travelers this month. Starting March 26, those arriving from other places in the United States will no longer have to show proof of vaccination or a negative test to avoid being sequestered for five days.
Nearly two years after the first coronavirus case arrived in Hawaiʻi, nearly all COVID-related restrictions will be lifted this month.
County-level COVID-19 restrictions have been lifted — or will end this weekend on Oʻahu. This means there are no limits on the size of gatherings and no vaccine requirements for restaurants and gyms.
Governor David Ige announced Tuesday that state-level restrictions will not end until March 25, when the current emergency proclamation expires.
From March 26, the Safe Travels program will end for domestic travellers. It required visitors to present proof of vaccination or a negative test to avoid quarantine.
Hawaiʻi is the only US state to implement such a coronavirus quarantine program. Ige said this requirement has saved lives and been a major factor in limiting the spread of COVID-19 on the islands.
The quarantine period for travelers lasted 14 days when Hawaiʻi first imposed it in March 2020. The state then created testing and vaccination exemptions — and reduced the length of quarantine.
The state has screened 11.3 million passengers since the testing exemption launched in October 2020, Ige said.
Those arriving in Hawaiʻi from outside the country should still follow US federal guidelines, which vary based on US citizenship. International tourists do not need to self-quarantine but still need proof of vaccination and a negative test.
Also starting March 26, state and county workers will not need to show proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test.
Ige said he would maintain Hawaii’s indoor mask mandate until at least March 25 — and assess whether to lift it after that. Hawaiʻi is the last state in the nation with a statewide mandate in effect.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently updated its mask-wearing guidelines, recommending masks for counties with high levels of cases. Hawaii’s four major counties are currently rated average or low. Ige said the state Department of Health will review the recommendations before making a decision.
Ige said he wants to make sure public schools can continue in-person learning. He said more people will travel as spring break approaches, which could increase the presence of the coronavirus in schools.
“The pandemic is not over. Tragically, we continue to see those we know and love continue to suffer from COVID-19,” he said.
Ige on Tuesday thanked residents for their cooperation with the state during the pandemic.
“What I’m most proud of is really the response from our community. I was amazed that everyone was willing to do their part. You know, we understand what makes Hawaiʻi special and that’s people, place and culture,” he said.
“All of us here, coming from diverse backgrounds, but always understanding that there is a greater reason to be willing to sacrifice individual needs for the benefit of the community. And again and again, we were willing to do that. And that’s why we have some of the lowest per capita infection rates and lowest per capita deaths in the country,” Ige said at a press conference.
Pop-up vaccination clinics and testing sites will be reduced, but hospitals will continue to provide COVID-19 services as needed, he said.
As of Wednesday, the state had a seven-day average daily case count of 200 and a positivity rate of 2.7%. Just over 76% of the state is fully vaccinated.
Associated Press reporter Audrey McAvoy contributed to this report.