July 29, 2020 | 2:33pm
View on Na Pali Coast on Kauai island in Hawaii.
HONOLULU — Hawaii was listed among 12 countries and regions the Japanese government considers safe international travel destinations for its citizens during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
The announcement could provide a boost to Hawaii’s tourism industry, which is vital to the state economy and has been devastated since the virus put the brakes on global travel.
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi announced the new Japan-Hawaii safe travel program, which will be tightly regulated to protect the health of travelers and prevent the additional spread of COVID-19.
The program is expected to require negative coronavirus tests for tourists before they travel and include screening of travelers entering Japan.
Hawaii, like Japan, has low numbers of coronavirus cases and is the only U.S. state under consideration for Japan’s program. Others destinations on the list include China, South Korea, Taiwan and nations in Europe.
The program likely would benefit Oahu disproportionately as Hawaii is expected to limit the relaxed entry program to Oahu, which normally receives the majority of visitors to the state from Japan.
“It’s important that we restore travel between Japan and Hawaii and we see this program as a way to make this possible, while also preventing the further spread of infections from COVID- 19,” Democratic Gov. David Ige said in a statement.
Hawaii County Mayor Harry Kim said the announcement is good news for the Big Island and the state. Kim favors allowing travel to and from Japan without quarantines if testing protocols are established.
“They’ve led the way in testing,” Kim said. “They’ll be more than capable of testing any visitor that wants to come to Hawaii.”
For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. But for some — especially older adults and people with existing health problems — it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia and death.