Hawai’i re-opened to Canadians with negative pre-departure COVID tests in mid-December
Unlike Canada, the state exempts people with negative tests from quarantine restrictions
More than 4,000 people have visited Hawai’i since the state opened its borders to Canadians in mid-December, despite government warnings not to travel. The governor announced the change November 19, and both Westjet and Air Canada launched flights from Calgary and Vancouver in December.
Between December 17 and January 5, 4,101 people flew from Canada to Hawai’i. More than 2,400 people left from Calgary, while 1,639 left from Vancouver. The majority travelled on Westjet flights to Maui or Honolulu. The numbers, though drastically reduced from previous years, represent a jump in international travel from Canada over the Christmas break.
Travel abroad has caused a furor in Canadian political circles. Tuesday, Calgary mayor Naheed Nenshi revealed two members of his staff travelled to Hawai’i in December. The revelation comes after an Alberta Cabinet minister lost her post due to out-of-country travel.
It is legal for Canadians to leave the country, though federal and provincial governments advise against non-essential travel.
A jump in visitors
In 2019, more than half a million Canadians visited the state, the second-largest source of international visitors to Hawai’i after Japan.
In March, Hawai’i imposed strict measures to control the pandemic, causing visitor numbers to plummet. The state has only gradually relaxed its rules. Only 802 Canadians travelled to Hawai’i in November, according to data from the Hawai’i Tourism Authority. They arrived aboard U.S. domestic flights.
Hawai’i requires passengers to provide a negative COVID-19 test within 72 hours of getting on a plane. The measure is similar to rules Canada is set to impose on international arrivals on Thursday.
Here, passengers will have to have a negative COVID test before boarding a plane. However, less than two days before the policy takes effect, the details still aren’t clear. Even airlines – who have called for a comprehensive testing strategy – say they’re in the dark.
“The PCR announcement occurred without any prior consultation with our airline or other industry stakeholders,” wrote Westjet spokesperson Morgan Bell in an email. “We have a responsibility to the Canadian traveller and do not have many answers that are required to execute this program.”
There is also a big difference from the approach stateside. Once a passenger with a negative lands in Hawai’i, they are free to visit the state.
In Canada, however, people will also have to quarantine for two weeks when they get home. The exception is in Alberta, where the provincial government is leading a pilot programme to reduce quarantines. Passengers landing in Calgary can opt to take a COVID test on arrival. If it comes back negative, the passengers can leave quarantine, after as little as two days. The province is studying ways to expand the pilot to Edmonton.
Sorting out the details
“Contact local health authorities, your airline or the nearest Government of Canada office abroad to find out where you can get a COVID-19 test,” reads a government website. “Additional information on in-country testing facilities can be found in the Health tab of certain destinations.”
✈️ Flying to Canada? As of Jan. 7 you will need a negative #COVID19 test result before boarding.— Travel.gc.ca (@TravelGoC) January 6, 2021
Consult our travel advisories, including the Health tab for the latest advice on country-specific testing facilities.https://t.co/7oPJeW757i pic.twitter.com/loj4sA6H8T
While airlines are in the dark about the new rules, they are trying to get out ahead and help passengers. Transat has published a list of clinics where passengers can get a COVID-19 test before their flight.
People allowed into Canada still have to lay out their quarantine plan to border officials, particularly via a government app. The app, however, does not ask for COVID-19 test results.
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