The Hawaii state agency responsible for welcoming visitors to the popular vacation destination is now paying to help them leave.
The Hawaii Tourism Authority has set aside $25,000 (₦9,750,000) for the costs of sending tourists away if they refuse to abide by the state’s 14-day quarantine.
The state said in a press release that outbound travel arrangements are being handled by the Visitor Aloha Society, a non-profit group that normally helps tourists in Hawaii deal with problems during their visits, such as theft or a medical emergency.
“The ability to return people quickly to their airports of origin during the coronavirus crisis greatly assists law enforcement’s ability to ensure the success of our statewide emergency measures,” Hawai’i State Attorney General Clare Connors said in a statement.
“The fact scarce government funds do not need to be expended for these return trips also helps fulfil the mission of keeping Hawaii safe.”
Nineteen people have been flown back to their airports of origin since the beginning of the emergency. In some cases, the violators have been prosecuted for misdemeanours and forced to pay a fine. The Visitor Aloha Society arranges for the travel back home and pays for the ticket if the visitor can’t afford it. One woman from Los Angeles was flown out after she was caught violating her quarantine when she shared images from the outdoors to social media.
On Thursday 438 people arrived by air, a 98.5 per cent decline from the 30,000 who arrive daily on average this time of year, according to the Tourism Authority.
Effective March 26, Gov. David Ige ordered all visitors to self-isolate for 14 days. The rule is being enforced with the help of an online registry that asks travellers to provide a name, phone number, flight information and address where they will be staying.
On April 6, John Monahan, president of the Hawaii Visitors and Convention Bureau, sent a letter to various publications asking them not to promote travel to Hawaii. The bureau had said it is hoping to decrease travel to the state to keep its health care system from getting overwhelmed due to the isolated nature of the islands.
“It is our responsibility to ensure the safety of visitors and residents alike,” Monahan wrote in the letter, “and therefore request that anything written about Hawaii strongly discourages travellers from visiting Hawaii until otherwise directed by our state officials.”
As of April 24, 2020, there have been 601 cases of coronavirus disease in Hawaii.