Travelers to Maui who aren’t vaccinated will no longer be tested for COVID-19 upon arrival, a move that eliminates one travel restriction as vacationers flock to the island this summer.
The popular Hawaii destination ended the testing program on Friday after a month of test results found just a handful of positive cases among visitors and residents.
“I think the time has arrived,” Maui Mayor Michael Victorino said this week in announcing the end of the testing.
Maui began secondary testing at the airport on May 4 due to concerns a growing number of vacationers and residents returning from the mainland were bringing the virus with them. Fully vaccinated travelers were exempt. Travelers were required to take the test to bypass a mandatory quarantine.
The tests at Maui’s Kahului Airport were in addition to Hawaii’s required pre-departure COVID test, which remains in effect for all travelers, including those fully vaccinated. Hawaii Gov. David Ige has said he hopes to exempt vaccinated travelers later this summer.
On Friday, Ige announced on Twitter that the state will lift all travel restrictions as soon as 70% of the state is fully vaccinated.
Restrictions will begin to ease leading up to the vaccination milestone. Starting June 15, the state will drop all restrictions for inter-island travel. Once 60% of the state is fully vaccinated, visitors vaccinated anywhere in the U.S. can bypass the state’s COVID testing and quarantine requirements.
The state’s completed vaccination rate was at 52% on Friday, Ige said on Twitter.
Maui conducted 92,963 rapid COVID tests at the airport between May 4 and May 31, and just 29 rapid antigen tests came back positive, according to Dr. Alan Wu, co-founder of Doctors of Waikiki, which ran the program.
Follow up PCR testing, which is considered more accurate, found just five positive cases, three from visitors and two from returning residents. That’s a positivity rate of 0.054%. The testing program was introduced because there were concerns the rate was as high as 1%, Wu said.
“Those are great numbers,” he said.
Victorino said the testing program, which cost an estimated $2.5 million to $2.7 million because the tests were free for travelers, was a worthwhile investment.
“The bottom line in all of this: It was here to protect you the visitor and, really more importantly, you the resident,” Victorini said at a news conference.
The mayor admitted that the secondary testing program, when combined with document checking for the state’s mandatory pre-departure testing requirement, caused logjams at the airport as planes full of passengers arrived.
“It was almost virtually impossible not to have waiting time,” he said.
He said the COVID testing requirements to visit Hawaii has presented a “challenging time” for the airport.
“Our airport was not designed for what’s occurring right now,” he said.