The Hawaii Tourism Authority is helping fund return flights for visitors, including those who do not obey the state’s mandatory 14-day self-quarantine established earlier this month amid of the ongoing coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
According to a Hawaii Department of Health press release on Thursday, the agency provided the Visitor Aloha Society of Hawaii (VASH) with $25,000 to pay for return flights. So far, VASH has returned at least 19 people to their home airports, including a couple from San Diego and a woman from Los Angeles.
“We have been helping victims of crime or other hardships they may have encountered in Hawaii for 23 years,” VASH President and CEO Jessica Lani Rich said in a statement. “During this unprecedented public health crisis, we are supporting the return of people arriving from the mainland, who do not have pre-arranged accommodation and may need financial assistance for their return flights.”
“The ability to quickly return people to their home airports during the coronavirus crisis greatly assists law enforcement’s ability to ensure the success of our statewide emergency measures,” said added Hawaii State Attorney General Clare Connors. “The fact that scarce government funds don’t need to be spent on these return trips also helps fulfill the mission of keeping Hawaii safe.”
At this point, flights have been arranged to at least six different mainland airports and to Guam.
According to the state health department, visitors arrested for violating self-quarantine rules have the option of arranging payment of fines through the courts instead of returning to Hawaii for trials.
It’s been more than a month since Hawaiian officials asked travelers to postpone travel plans to the islands and nearly three weeks since Hawaii Visitors and Convention Bureau Chairman John Monahan sent a letter to several publications asking them to temporarily stop promoting travel to Hawaii in an effort to slow the spread of COVID-19 and prevent overstretching the state’s healthcare system.