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Hawaii set to welcome Canadians without quarantine restrictions starting Sept. 1

A winter travel escape may not be top-of-mind during a world-wide pandemic, but the island state of Hawaii says Canadians will be welcomed without quarantine measures starting Sept. 1, 2020.

Hawaii imposed a mandatory 14-day quarantine for all out-of-state travellers at the onset of the pandemic, but the state’s Department of Transportation says it will soon be open to “all trans-Pacific travelers.” 

“Travelers arriving in Hawaii from out-of-state will have the option to get a valid COVID-19 test prior to their arrival, and show proof of a negative test result, to avoid the 14-day quarantine,” read a statement from the Department of Transportation.

The test must be taken within 72 hours of boarding a flight to Hawaii.

“That’s going to make a lot of Canadians happy,” said Len Saunders, an immigration lawyer in Blaine, Washington.

Canadian airline carriers will resume non-stop flights from Vancouver to Hawaii beginning in September. (Westjet.com)

Without evidence of a negative test result, passengers will be subject to the quarantine, according to Hawaii’s Department of Transportation. 

Air travel not restricted

Land borders between the U.S. and Canada have been closed to non-essential travel since March 21, but air travel has not been restricted for Canadians going into the U.S. 

“A lot of Canadians don’t know they are allowed to travel by air to the United States,” said Montreal-based travel expert Ricky Zhang.

“That loophole has remained,” said Saunders. “I don’t think you’re going to see that change.”

Airlines resume flights

Meanwhile, Canadian airlines have been preparing to reopen routes to Hawaii. Westjet is set to resume its non-stop flights from Vancouver to Hawaiian destinations on Sept. 5, and Air Canada will follow suit on Sept. 8.

According to the state’s Department of Health, Hawaii, with a total population of 1.4 million people, has so far recorded 2111 confirmed cases of COVID-19 up to July 31, with 26 deaths. 

It’s the only state in the U.S. that implemented a mandatory quarantine at the beginning of the pandemic. Saunders says quarantines were voluntary in all other states.

The lifting of Hawaii’s 14-day quarantine requirement was planned for August, but Gov. David Ige delayed due to a rise in confirmed cases on the mainland.

The process of finalizing the requirements of entry will be determined “in the coming weeks,” according to the Department of Transportation.

“The September 1 date is still tentative and subject to evaluation,” said Zhang.

“It is a risk that they are taking and that Canadians are taking should they choose to travel to Hawaii,” he added.

Travel insurance returns

At least one Canadian insurer, however, has reinstated medical coverage for COVID-19.

“We understand that our clients have concerns about medical insurance coverage for COVID-19,” states Medipac’s Travel Insurance website, which sells travel medical insurance to the Canadian Snowbird Association and the Royal Canadian Legion.

The company website says that “Early Bird Travel Insurance is now available and includes coverage for COVID-19,” while adding that pre-existing condition clauses and other policy terms and conditions will continue to apply.

Zhang said Canadians can also consider purchasing travel insurance from U.S. providers.

Pre-testing in Canada

“This whole pre-testing thing is something the Canadian government may want to consider,” said Saunders. “Because if it works well in Hawaii — with its huge tourist base — why can’t it work for Canada?” 

The BC Centre for Disease Control suggests people with cold, influenza or even mild COVID-19-like symptoms should be tested, but its website also says “anyone can get tested.”

Canadians returning from Hawaii will still be subject to mandatory self-isolation upon their return.

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