By Alfred Acenas
EBC Hawaii Bureau
HONOLULU (Eagle News) – Governor David Ige and State House Speaker Scott Saiki expressed their gratitude on Monday, July 27, to Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi as Hawaii has been selected to an exclusive list of 12 countries and regions to resume safe international travel with Japan.
Abe and Motegi announced that international travel between Japan and the 12 destinations will be tightly regulated to protect the health and safety of travelers and prevent the spread of infections caused by COVID-19.
Among the safety requirements of the new program will be pre-travel testing for COVID-19, proof of a negative PCR test result, and an examination of travelers upon entry to Japan.
Hawaii is currently the only destination in the United States being considered for Japan’s resumption of international travel. Other destinations include China, South Korea, Taiwan and several European countries.
“On behalf of the State of Hawaii, we are honored that Prime Minister Abe and Japan’s policy makers are considering Hawai‘i for resuming safe and responsible international travel,” Ige said. “Japan and Hawaii enjoy longstanding cultural ties and a deep-rooted friendship that has enriched the lives of many generations. It’s important that we restore travel between Japan and Hawaii and we see this program as a way to make this possible, while also preventing the further spread of infections from COVID-19.”
Ige noted that details for the Japan-Hawai‘i safe travel program are still being resolved and no timetable has been set for when it would take effect.
The governor stressed that public health will be the overriding factor in determining how the program is carried out to support the state’s economic recovery and the tens of thousands of residents who depend on the travel industry for their livelihoods.
“Providing safe travel for both residents and visitors is vital to strengthening our state’s economic health and long-term recovery. Protecting the public’s health will always be our first priority and the foundation for which any economic recovery program is built upon, including trans-Pacific travel,” stressed the Governor.
Moreover, Speaker Saiki was instrumental in Hawaii being included on Japan’s list of travel destinations through his discussions with Japan’s top policy makers as the chair of the Japan Hawaii Legislators Friendship Association.
The association provides a forum for legislative-level interactions between Japan and Hawai‘i lawmakers to share information and initiatives to strengthen relationships, policies and economic opportunities.
“We are thankful for this expression of confidence by Japan for the eventual renewal of travel with Hawaii,” the House Speaker commented. “It’s just as important for Hawaii residents to be able to travel again to Japan to connect with family members, conduct business, and experience historic cultural sites, as it is for us to welcome the people of Japan back to Hawaii.”
Saiki added, “Similar to Japan, a lot of work has been accomplished to make Hawaii as safe as possible from the spread of the coronavirus since international travel was suspended in March. We are getting closer to the point where travel between Japan and Hawaii can be restarted, while staying focused on protecting people’s health. When that occurs, it will be a big step forward to reviving a segment that is important to the overall economic health of Hawaii and its people.”
(Eagle News Service)