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Japan may join Hawaii COVID-19 pre-travel testing once ‘trusted partners’ picked

  • STAR-ADVERTISER / 2019

    STAR-ADVERTISER / 2019

Japanese visitors, the state’s top international market, won’t be among the first out-of-state travelers coming to Hawaii through a pre-arrivals testing program on Thursday.

But they’ll likely be coming soon.

The state Department of Health today approved the COVID-19 Nucleic Acid Amplification Test (NAAT) authorized by Japan’s Ministry of Health, Labor, and Welfare. Once, DOH agrees on a list of approved testing partners in Japan, travelers from that country also will have the option to bypass the state’s mandatory 14-day self-quarantine if they can provide proof of a negative NAAT test taken from a trusted partner 72 hours prior to the last leg of their departure for Hawaii.

Right now travelers coming from international destinations are excluded from participating in the state’s pre-arrivals testing program because Gov. David Ige’s order specifies that tests must be processed by laboratories that are licensed or certified by Clinical Laboratories Improvement Amendments (CLIA) of specimens for nucleic acid amplification testing approved or authorized by the United States Food and Drug Administration.

As soon as Japan’s trusted testing partners are confirmed, the state will update its informational website, Hawaiicovid19.com.

Allowing visitors from Japan an opportunity to bypass the travel quarantine will mostly benefit Oahu. There aren’t any flights currently scheduled to travel from Japan to Hawaii island, the state’s other international port of entry, through the end of the year, said Eric Takahata, managing director for Hawaii Tourism Japan, Hawaii Tourism Authority’s Japan marketing contractor.

Takahata said there’s pent-up demand for Hawaii from visitors from Japan. However, Takahata said recovery is likely to start slowly as the Japanese government still requires Japanese nationals traveling abroad to complete a 14-day quarantine upon returning to their country. Also, the Japanese government still has the U.S. listed under a level three travel restriction,which means reconsider travel, he said.

“We’re expecting travel from Japan to Hawaii to resume sometime in November,” Takahata said. “Right, now, we believe only a few thousand visitors from Japan will come to Hawaii and we expect that we’ll finish the year just shy of 300,000 arrivals.”

Takahata said Hawaii drew 1.57 million visitor arrivals from Japan in 2019.

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