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Hawaii State Department of Transportation is rolling out its Safe Travels App, a program meant to streamline the arrival procedure for trans-Pacific visitors and residents returning from overseas and accurately collect data on travelers subject to the mandatory 14-day quarantine. It is a “scaled up” version of a system already used for interisland travel.
“It was a breeze,” says Aloha Bruce of his recent trip to Kauai. “No hassle at all. It was really convenient and easy to use.” The system uses bar codes and other digital technology as a pre-screening method of getting information about departure points, accommodations, and health information quickly to screeners at Hawaii’s airports.
The original program Bruce describes was successful but not “scalable” for the number of visitors Hawaii expects as efforts to reopen the state continue, but it is being replaced by an app developed by Google and its partners for Hawaii. The safetravels.hawaii.gov website is currently “in transition” according to the website itself. For the most current information, visitors are directed to the Health Department coronavirus website.
The rollout of the Safe Travels App is an encouraging step toward the reopening of Hawaii tourism. There is hope that it can be fully in place by the quarantine exemption for visitors with negative COVID-19 tests, which has been delayed until at least October 1 due to an alarming spike in new coronavirus cases in Hawaii in recent weeks.
The encouraging news about the Safe Travels App is much needed, as Oahu has entered a second “stay at home” order and all non-essential businesses have been shuttered until at least September 6. Restaurants are limited to only takeout service. Maui is also seeing a rapid increase in active cases. Public schools, for the most part, will conduct distance learning for at least the beginning of the school year. Daily returning residents have outnumbered incoming visitors for the first time in decades.
The Safe Travels App offers hope for emerging from the COVID-19 crisis in Hawaii. “The COVID is with us,” Bruce says. “This is just going to become part of how we travel, anywhere.” Like TSA screenings, removing shoes, and other security measures implemented since 9/11, Safe Travels and other technologies like it are destined to be a part of traveling from now on.
Safe Travels is also encouraging because it improves the ability to track visitors and residents under quarantine. The number of people getting caught and cited for violating quarantine is disturbing.
More details from authorities and developers from Google are yet to come. Ideally, a Hawaii visitor will be able to get a COVID-19 test before departing for Hawaii and have the certified results available to screeners upon their arrival in the Aloha State, exempting them from mandatory quarantine.
Plans to reopen Hawaii tourism are incremental and are still being developed. The Safe Travels App is a step toward reopening, and we here at Hawaii Aloha Travel are monitoring the program to best help you plan your Hawaii vacation.