Hawaii expands pre-travel testing option to visitors from Japan

(FILE) Between June 2019 and March 2020, Japan’s All Nippon Airways (ANA) would fly the Airbus A380 double-decker jets, providing nonstop service twice daily between Tokyo-Narita and Honolulu. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, their future remains uncertain. (Courtesy All Nippon Airways)


HONOLULU (Eagle News) – Hawaii has included Japan in the state’s pre-travel testing program giving travelers from Japan an option to bypass Hawaii’s mandatory 14-day self-quarantine.

Starting November 6, 2020, people may take a COVID-19 pre-travel test from trusted testing partners in Japan no earlier than 72 hours prior to departure, and the result must come out negative.

“Many of Hawaii’s residents trace their ancestry back to Japan, and welcoming our Japanese guests back to Hawaii is an important step in maintaining the close relationship between our two regions,” Governor David Ige said during a press briefing at the Daniel K. Inouye International Airport. “We believe we have created the safest travel testing program in the country, and we are grateful to the Japanese government for assisting us in making our pre-travel testing program available to its residents.”

“I appreciate that the members of the Japan-Hawaii Legislators’ Friendship Association have worked with us to enable Japanese citizens to use the pre-travel test quarantine exemption. We look forward to welcoming the people of Japan back to Hawaii. We will continue to work to reduce the number of COVID cases in Hawaii so that we can also visit Japan soon,” said Hawaii House Speaker Scott K. Saiki, who also serves as the Chair of the Japan-Hawaii Legislators’ Friendship Association.

Lieutenant Governor (Dr.) Josh Green expressed his gratitude to those involved in making the program available for the state’s largest foreign visitor market.

“Mahalo [Thank you] to our health partners in Japan for working with Hawaii to implement this next phase of the Safe Travels Hawaii program. The program is an extra layer of safety for the people of Hawaii and our visitors, and it has restored hope for many people. We are anxious to welcome back our Japanese travelers and look forward to Japan and Hawaii’s continued relationship,” Green stated.

John De Fries, Hawaii Tourism Authority (HTA) president and chief executive officer (CEO) expressed optimism as hotels and resorts statewide gradually resume operations.

“There is a strong cross-cultural relationship between the people of Japan and Hawaii, which over time, has forged a foundation of mutual respect. Historically, the Japan traveler to Hawaii has been mindful and sensitive to our local ways and cultural traditions. At a time when we in Hawaii seek to resuscitate our economy, the resumption of trans-Pacific travel from Japan is welcomed news,” De Fries mentioned.

Airline executives were also on hand to comment on the state’s latest step in reopening the economy.

“We look forward to supporting the phased reopening of travel between Japan and Hawaii by welcoming onboard more of our Japanese guests with enhanced health protocols to keep travelers and our islands safe,” said Peter Ingram, president and CEO of Hawaiian Airlines.

“On behalf of the travelling public, ANA [All Nippon Airways] would like to thank Governor Ige, Speaker Saiki, and those involved with developing and implementing the pre-travel testing program. We hope that with appropriate health and safety measures with additional layers of testing like the PTTP, we can resume air travel between Japan and Hawaii,” stressed Hiro Noguchi, ANA’s Honolulu airport station manager.

Hiroshi Kuroda, vice president and Hawaii regional manager for Japan Airlines, commented,“It is a welcome news for those ready to travel between Hawaii and Japan with today’s announcement of the State of Hawai‘i pre-travel testing program. These measures can provide a safe and secure travel experience for our customers, and serve as an opportunity for more travel between Hawaii and Japan one step at a time. Japan Airlines will continue to undertake measures to ensure safety and health of local communities and visitors as a priority.”

The state’s Department of Health has approved the use of the COVID-19 Nucleic Acid Amplification Test (NAAT) conducted by a laboratory authorized by Japan’s Ministry of Health, Labor, and Welfare for the pre-travel test. As of this report, 21 trusted testing partners across seven prefectures have been designated. Twelve are located in Tokyo, with one in Hokkaido, one in Chiba, two in Kanagawa, three in Aichi, one in Osaka, and one in Hyogo.

Japanese nationals traveling abroad are still subject to a 14-day quarantine upon their return to their country. Travel restrictions on U.S. travel to Japan remain in place.

According to HTA’s 2019 Annual Visitor Research Report, more than 1.5 million travelers from Japan arrived in Hawaii, averaging just over 4,300 arrivals daily.

However, since March 26 when Hawaii implemented the 14-day self-quarantine amid the pandemic, there have been only less than 1,800 visitors from Japan.

(With reports from EBC Hawaii Bureau, Eagle News Service)