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Hawaii Is Arresting Tourists Who Violate Quarantine | Frommer's Fominayaphoto/ Shutterstock

Hawaii Is Arresting Tourists Who Violate Quarantine

Hawaii is not messing around.

Other American states might have lax enforcement rules about public behavior during the pandemic, but the Aloha State has arrested 21 visitors this week for violating the official quarantine.

Every tourist from the U.S. mainland who enters Hawaii is informed about the rigid rules put in place for the islands' self-protection. Earlier in the spring, Gov. David Ige announced that all visitors from the rest of the U.S. would have to submit to a 14-day quarantine before they could begin touring. 

Each arriving tourist signs an agreement acknowledging that leaving a hotel room or rental home during that time—even for a stroll on the beach—is cause for arrest.

Over the weekend, a group from California was found to be violating the rules. Some were caught at a beach on the Big Island on the same day they arrived. One visitor was captured on video holding a sea turtle.

According to the Associated Press, the arrested tourists said they didn't think Hawaii was serious about enforcing its quarantine.

It is.

Once released from jail, the group flew back to the mainland, courtesy of funds from a local travelers aid program.

Getting rid of the violators "was money well spent," a rep from that organization told the Associated Press.

For Hawaii, protecting itself from the diseases of the rest of the world isn't a theoretical problem. It's a matter of history and sovereignty. Successive waves of infection from Europe destroyed island after island across Polynesia. Western disease is even blamed for undermining the Hawaiian monarchy, which resulted in its conquest by the United States in 1893.  

Then there are the practicalities of 2020 to consider. Hawaii has one of the lowest per-capita rates of coronavirus infection in the United States—as of Wednesday, 744 people have tested positive for Covid-19 and 17 people have died.

The low rate of infection didn't happen by chance. Unlike mainland states where authorities have been unwilling to enforce health and safety restrictions for political reasons, Hawaii has been aggressive about containing the spread of the coronavirus.

A ban on inter-island travel within Hawaii was eased earlier in the week, but the stiff quarantine rules for other visitors remain in effect until at least August 1

Pictured above: ki'i wood carvings of Hawaiian guardian gods at Pu'uhonua O Honaunau National Historical Park on the Big Island