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'Now is not the time' for tourists to visit says Hawaii's governor as Covid-19 crushes hospitals

More than 791,000 people arrived by plane to the Hawaiian islands in June, the most recent month in which data is available

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On the beach in Waikiki, Hawai'i. Photo: Pól Ó Conghaile

On the beach in Waikiki, Hawai'i. Photo: Pól Ó Conghaile

On the beach in Waikiki, Hawai'i. Photo: Pól Ó Conghaile

Hawaii's Governor has pleaded with tourists from around the world not to visit the islands until at least the end of October, as the state grapples with an influx of coronavirus cases from residents and holidaymakers.

While Governor David Ige's announcement does not prohibit travellers from visiting Hawaii, he said at a news conference that he is working with airlines, hotels and other tourism businesses to "do what they could" to curb tourism to the state except for those people traveling for essential business.

Restaurant capacity has been restricted and access to rental cars is limited.

The governor urged travellers to curb their travel to Hawaii while the state's hospitals are at capacity due to the highly transmissible delta variant.

While nearly 55pc of the state's eligible population is fully vaccinated - a rate higher than the US national average - the delta variant in Hawaii, as it has elsewhere, has pushed up hospitalisations.

"It's not a good time to travel to the islands,'' he said at a news conference Monday.

"It's a risky time to be traveling right now," Ige told the Honolulu Star-Advertiser. "I think it's important that we reduce the number of visitors coming here to the islands."

The state, however, is not retightening its entry requirements. Hawaii previously allowed for travellers to present a negative coronavirus test to bypass the state's strict quarantine, and that requirement went away altogether for vaccinated travellers last month.

But since the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have said domestic travel is safe for vaccinated people, Ige told reporters that reinstituting the safety standard for those coming into Hawaii would be difficult.

As the coronavirus vaccines became more widely available and pandemic restrictions were loosened or abandoned, people have returned to traveling, and more are heading to Hawaii.

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More than 791,000 people arrived by plane to the Hawaiian islands in June, the most recent month in which data is available, according to the Hawaii Tourism Authority.

The June travellers, composed of mostly those coming from the East and West Coasts of the US, was an increase from May, which saw more than 629,000 visitors by plane.

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Honolua Bay, Maui, Hawai'i. Photo: Deposit

Honolua Bay, Maui, Hawai'i. Photo: Deposit

Honolua Bay, Maui, Hawai'i. Photo: Deposit

The announcement comes as hundreds of out-of-state health-care workers are being flown in to help overwhelmed hospitals during the fourth wave of the pandemic.

The Queen's Health Systems - which declared an "internal state of emergency" Friday after a spike in covid patients forced the city of Oahu to set up a 25-bed tent outside a West Oahu hospital - welcomed 81 out-of-state health-care workers to its hospitals Monday, reported the Star-Advertiser.

"Our nurses are tired, and we don't have enough of them to manage the numbers of patients that are coming in across all the islands," Jill Hoggard Green, president and CEO of Queen's Health Systems, told the newspaper. "We have a huge number of Covid patients coming in that need high-level respiratory support, mechanical support for breathing, whether it's a ventilator or high rates of oxygenation."

Ige indicated that a lockdown of the state was a possibility if the surge continued to hammer Hawaii's hospitals.

"If the number of cases continues to grow exponentially as it has in the last 10 weeks... then we will have to take action to limit and ensure that the hospitals aren't overrun," he said to reporters.

Hawaii reported 893 new coronavirus cases Monday, bringing its seven-day average for new infections to 700, according to data compiled by The Washington Post. More than 400 people in Hawaii are currently hospitalised with Covid, including 79 in intensive care units.

John De Fries, president and CEO of the Hawaii Tourism Authority, the state agency in charge of promoting tourism, echoed Ige, saying in a statement that the agency is "strongly advising visitors that now is the not the right time to travel."

Hawaiian Airlines spokesperson Alex Da Silva said in a statement that the airline was "acutely aware of the stress on our health-care system imposed by new Covid-19 cases."

Da Silva touted the airline's Safe Travels Program, which "requires travellers to be vaccinated or tested to avoid quarantine and has been effective in managing the number of travel-related cases."

"We continue to believe that the single most valuable measure to address this crisis is increasing the vaccination rate in our community, which is why we have announced our intent to require our employees to be vaccinated," Da Silva said.

The governor's plea comes shortly after a mandate was announced earlier this month, forcing state and county workers to show proof of vaccination or face weekly tests.

The mandate has faced blowback from dozens of maskless vaccine opponents who've gathered outside a Honolulu condominium building where Lt. Gov. Josh Green (D) lives with his wife and two children, ages 14 and 10, according to the Associated Press.

Some have yelled into bullhorns and shined strobe lights into the building, while others have posted fliers around the neighbourhood of his face with the words "Jew" and "fraud."

Green, who is Jewish, told MSNBC's Joy Reid on Monday that he's been working his second job as an emergency room doctor, where he's been treating Covid patients. The lieutenant governor noted that all of the Covid patients he's seen in the E.R. were not vaccinated.

"They're usually very tearful because they realise they could have prevented it," he said. "They all are beside themselves because they know now they could die because they could've done the one simple thing, which was to get vaccinated."

© Washington Post


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