Honolulu, Hawaii – Hawaiian authorities cracked down on tourists who are visiting beaches, using jet skis, going shopping, and generally violating strict requirements to remain in quarantine for 14 days after arrival.
A newly married couple from California repeatedly came out of their hotel room in Waikiki, despite receiving multiple warnings from hotel staff, and were arrested. Others have been arrested in a hostel pool after shopping at Costco or buying food to take back to their hotel.
The rules, the strictest in the United States, have helped keep infection rates relatively low. As of Wednesday, Hawaii reported 626 cases and 17 deaths.RELATED
But the closure has devastated the economy of the islands, which depend heavily on tourism. Since March 26, when Hawaii put the restrictions into effect, some 5,000 visitors have arrived, compared to about 30,000 daily before the pandemic.
The pandemic shakes the state, unemployment is now between 25 and 35%. Tourism industry officials say the hotel occupancy rate was 34% down compared to March last year. More than 100 hotels have suspended operations and laid-off workers wait in long lines at food distribution sites.
That makes violators especially offensive, said Honolulu Councilwoman Kym Pine, who wants travelers to be monitored via cell phones or tested for the virus before boarding their flights to Hawaii.
“People who come don’t care about us. They come to Hawaii on a low cost and obviously don’t care if they have the virus or not,” Pine said. “So obviously they don’t care at all about that mother or father who has no job or food.”
While quarantined in a hotel or residence, visitors can only be released if it is for a medical emergency. That means no shopping, no walks on the beach or asking for services in your room.
Borice Lepovskiy, 20, and Yuliia Andreichenko, 26, a California newlywed couple, were arrested after going for a walk, buying a pizza and refusing to sign a quarantine agreement.
They are among at least 20 people arrested in the state for violating the quarantine. Many others have received citations and fines.