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US: Hawaii governor considering Covid boosters as part of travel rules

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Hawaii may soon require travelers arriving from other US states and territories to have a Covid booster shot if they want to travel to the islands without quarantine or testing requirements.

Ala Wai Harbor at dusk, Oahu, Hawaii. © Alamy Stock Ala Wai Harbor at dusk, Oahu, Hawaii.

Gov. David Ige said on a recent livestream show with the Honolulu Star-Advertiser newspaper that his office is considering changing its definition of "fully vaccinated" from two doses of an approved Covid vaccine to three.

That could mean that domestic travelers who have not had booster shots may have to take a Covid-19 test before arriving in Hawaii or isolate for five days upon arrival in Hawaii at their own expense.

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Vaccinated US travelers with proof of vaccination do not currently have to test or quarantine. Unvaccinated American travelers can visit Hawaii with a negative Covid-19 test to bypass a mandatory quarantine.

Currently, there are vaccination and testing requirements for international tourists, in line with broader US rules.

Domestic tourism is regulated through the state's Safe Travels program, where people can upload their vaccination records to the online portal ahead of their flight.

"We know that the community needs time to react to that, so we would have to provide at least two weeks for those who may not be up to date to have the opportunity to go and get vaccinated if they need to," Ige told the Honolulu Star-Advertiser, the state's largest newspaper.

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He further clarified that the booster shot requirement or any other rule change would give travelers and members of the hospitality community several weeks' notice, so those who already have trips booked will not yet be subject to the updated requirement.

Ige also said that he is in touch with local hospitality partners around the islands about the possibility of requiring booster shots for people who attend public events and gatherings, but there are no such rules in place yet.

The CDC does not have any guidance about whether booster shots should be required for international or domestic travel.

However, some countries and territories have started to mandate a third dose of a Covid vaccine for their residents and/or visitors.

The city-state of Singapore is one of them. In early January, Singapore's health minister announced that adult citizens who had gone more than 270 days since their second vaccine dose would need to have a booster in order to be considered "fully vaccinated" by the country's standards.

Hawaii has had a relatively low number of coronavirus cases since the onset of the pandemic.

As of January 2022, the state has reported 166,008 cases and just 1,123 deaths. About 75% of eligible adults have received two shots of an approved vaccine.

Correction: A previous version of this story incorrectly characterized possible changes around traveling to Hawaii and the current rules for international travel. The top of this story has been updated to correct those errors.

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