Hawaii, the state which ranked first in health and last in economic well being during the pandemic is changing its response to COVID-19. Thanks to the advent of vaccination and other forms of treatments that make the disease a lot less potent than it was when it burst into the scene, the state officials now have decided to stop treating the disease like an emergency.
A conference was held this week to discuss COVID-19 transition plans from emergency to public health management.
“As part of the transition, COVID will be handled more like other diseases, something that healthcare providers diagnose and treat.”– declared Governor David Ige at the end of the conference.
This may change some aspects both in politics and daily habits. The state of emergency meant the authorities could take quicker and broader decisions for the islanders and in some cases even bypass slow and lengthy bureaucracies. It appears the days of citizens being enforced for greater good are finally behind us in what appears to be the final days of the pandemic.
The governor though, was quick to remind that the pandemic is not completely over and stressed what’s being iterated by the specialists that COVID-19 will stay with us for a long time and many new variants will still surge. Fortunately though, it’s a whole different scenario from what was seen in the last 2 years.
Hawaii has been known for having tougher measures throughout the pandemic, both by the state and by the locals. This reflects in the vaccination rate in Hawaii, which is around 78%– considerably higher than the continental US average of 66%. Even so, the omicron variant swiped the island earlier this year but was not as deadly as variants like delta in 2021.
The state of emergency is not only being lifted in Hawaii. Countries like Japan and Italy are ending it too. Now that restrictions are being eased all around the world, the travel industry is returning to its pre-pandemic levels. With it, several problems come to surface again. Pilot shortage, crowded sights, over-tourism are among the overlooked realities that are pillaging the industry.
Hawaii is no exception. It receives more than 10 times its number of citizens every year. Some locals are having second thoughts about what can be done regarding over-tourism, as the housing prices skyrocket, congestion and water shortage grip the islands, as well as the cost of living reaching the highest of any U.S state.
The governor’s announcement comes at a moment of rising covid cases. Hawaii has now doubled the number of cases it had in march, indicating that the pandemic is far from over. In fact, the governor stated:
“COVID-19 isn’t going away. In fact, case counts are increasing and the experts expect that COVID will be with us for the foreseeable future”.
Many other countries with high tourist influx are seeing covid cases on the rise, such as Germany, Italy, and France. It is inevitable that cases will still be around, especially with more contagious new variants like omicron.
Still, hospitalizations and death are plummeting to never seen levels since the start of the pandemic. Numbers all around the world are low, which means the worst problems are now more controllable. Authorities are referencing this to ease restrictions and change the state’s response to covid.
All this comes as good news for tourism. Travelers had to adapt a lot while traveling during these times. Mask mandates, airport forms, compulsory testing and vaccination proof may not be obligations anymore. All this could come as an incentive for traveling again, as it costs money and time. Caution is always important and always needed, but easing restrictions and low levels of hospitalization and death are showing us that the COVID-19 is much more controllable and tourism is coming back strongly.
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