Hawaiians get a glimpse of tourist-free islands due to pandemic

 Friday, November 27, 2020

Line-NoueMemea Kruse lives on Oahu’s famed North Shore, where marvelling at sea turtles, epic waves and sunsets that paint the sky orange and purple are a must for many tourists inHawaii.

After the islands required a two-week quarantine for travellers amid thecoronaviruspandemic, Kruse rejoiced in the little things as the number of tourists dramatically dropped. It took her 35 minutes to drive to Walmart, instead of spending hours stuck in traffic as tourists gawked at turtles on the beach.

But tourist-reliantHawaiihas now eased the restrictions imposed in March, allowing visitors to produce a negative COVID-19 test to avoid the quarantine.

“I can literally tell you the day that they opened up,” Kruse said. She was driving to Walmart on Oct. 15, when the travel restrictions eased, and “I waited for hours again.”

For seven months, locals had taken back spots normally crowded with visitors. They could enjoy Waikiki’s famous beaches without the sunburned tourists and walk on sidewalks without hordes of visitors awestruck by clear blue water, white sand and the other trappings of a tropical getaway.

Locals, many of whom depend on tourism jobs, have long felt ambivalence about living in an island paradise that relies heavily on visitor spending, but many saw an upshot to ahealthcrisis that threatened their livelihoods — reclaiming favourite areas long overrun by crowds.

Before the pandemic, as many as 30,000 visitors arrived a day. That dropped to several thousand after the quarantine mandate.

Some residents are worried as cases surge in other parts of the U.S., butHawaiiofficials say an “extremely small number” who get tested before travelling are diagnosed after they arrive. On Monday, 10,515 passengers arrived, with nearly 5,300 indicating they were coming for vacation, the Hawaii Tourism Authority said.

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