22 Mar 2020

Hawaii imposes new quarantine measures to stop Covid-19 spread

9:30 pm on 22 March 2020

Hawaii Governor David Ige is imposing a mandatory 14-day quarantine for everyone who arrives in Hawaii, including both tourists and residents, in response to the coronavirus pandemic.

Honolulu Civil Beat reports the order will begin on Thursday at one-minute-past-midnight and will apply to both visitors and residents.

At a press conference at the Hawaii State Capitol on Saturday afternoon, Governor Ige called the order "the first of its kind in the nation."

Hawaii Governor David Ige speaks at a community meeting in the aftermath of eruptions from the Kilauea volcano on Hawaii's Big Island

David Ige Photo: 2018 Getty Images

Hawaii's hospitality industry, which is the main driver of the state's economy, has already been in free fall since earlier this week when the governor asked tourists to temporarily stop coming to Hawaii.

"There is no other time in the history of the planet where this has occurred," he said of COVID-19. "It is impacting every single industry in our community."

The governor has been under pressure to quell tourism as COVID-19 spreads.

Hawaii has conducted about 2,500 tests - the vast majority at private labs - and as of Saturday afternoon, 48 tested positive up from 37 the day before. The vast majority of cases involve residents who returned from traveling elsewhere.

The governor's new order is intended to discourage visitors from coming to the islands. Violating the order is a misdemeanor offense with a maximum fine of US$5,000 and up to one-year imprisonment.

But whether and how the order will actually be enforced is unclear. State officials said that residents and visitors will be told to quarantine themselves in their homes and hotels. Enforcement will be left up to the counties.

"To be honest, we think it's going to be very difficult to enforce this," said Major General Kenneth Hara, the state's adjutant general, at Saturday's press conference.

Saturday's announcement deals a severe blow to Hawaii's tourism industry which has seen mass layoffs this week in the wake of widespread trip cancellations.

Thousands of hotel and service industry workers overwhelmed the state's unemployment insurance website this week due to the unprecedented traffic.

More job loss is likely to come. For example, Aulani, a Disney hotel in West Oahu, plans to close Tuesday.

Meanwhile, Hawaiian Airlines President CEO Peter Ingram that the airlines' revenue is "virtually zero" and that some days they have more cancellations than bookings. The company is offering employees voluntary furloughs.

He said that the airline has already seen a huge drop in arrivals and expects to cut flights further next week.