You Can’t Bribe Your Way Past COVID Entry Rules In Hawaii

Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, Hawaii retained some of the strictest requirements of entry of any state. Currently, travelers to Hawaii must possess a negative COVID test within 72 hours of arrival. They also must pass a temperature check upon arrival. Travelers without the required test face a mandatory ten-day quarantine.

Two travelers from Louisiana, home of Mardi Gras and L’aissez les bon temps roulez (let the good times roll) decided that the rules should not apply to them. They arrived without the mandatory tests and a novel plan for avoiding the quarantine: bribery.

How Much Is A Ten Day Quarantine Worth

Johntrell White, a 29-year-old passenger from Simmesport, LA, told one of the arrival screeners that he would pay her $2,000 if she would release him from the ten-day quarantine. White did not have the required negative COVID test.

Traveling companion Nadia Bailey, a 28-year-old passenger from Baton Rouge, LA, offered to sweeten White’s offer with $1,000 of her own money if the screener released both of them from the quarantine. Bailey also lacked the mandatory negative COVID test. Neither Bailey nor White had an exemption from any of the COVID rules that would allow them to enter the state without quarantining.

The screener avoided the temptation and alerted authorities. White and Bailey were arrested for bribery of a public official. The office of Hawaii Gov. David Ige confirmed that after being arrested, the two Louisiana residents were returned to their home state. His office did not provide further comment on the case.

It is not clear if Hawaii will continue with formal charges against the pair. Court records were not available for either traveler in the Hawaii State Judiciary records. Reports indicated that the Attorney General continued with an investigation of the case but did not provide any details or provide a timeline for resolution.

Governments Crackdown On COVID Screening Rule Breakers

Governments have recently enacted measures to provide enhanced penalties for travelers who use deception to avoid entry requirements. Governments fear that COVID variants and infection rates could rise if people successfully avoid mandatory screening requirements.

The U.K. recently defended a law providing for up to ten years in prison for travelers who lie about having recently traveled to red list countries. Travelers entering the U.K. from those countries face a mandatory 10-day quarantine in a hotel. The cost of the quarantine could be as much as £1,750.

Detractors of the new law pointed out that many serious offenses, such as firearm offenses and sex crimes, carry lower maximum sentences than the ten years provided for by the new law. They also pointed out that an invalid disclosure could be the result of inadvertence.

The government responded that no visitor would face serious jail time for failing to properly fill out customs forms. The law targets people who intentionally attempt to subvert COVID entry requirements.

In Australia, Asher Faye Vander Sanden, 28 years old, traveled to Victoria for a month. Victoria has higher infection rates than many other parts of Australia. On her return to Perth, she was subject to a fourteen-day quarantine. The law provided that the quarantine take place in a hotel.

Instead, she snuck into Perth and sheltered at her partner’s home. Although it is not clear how she was found out, the authorities discovered that she avoided the mandatory quarantine. She was arrested and sentenced to six months in jail.

Vander Sanden faced twelve months in jail and a $50,000 (AUS) fine. In sentencing her, the Magistrate indicated that he believed that Vander Sanden engaged in "a very serious offence” that endangered the health of the people of Perth by subjecting them to a possible COVID outbreak.

Many other countries, including France, Saudi Arabia, and New Zealand, provide penalties for failing to properly declare their previous travel, health information or failing to properly observe quarantine rules. As COVID continues to spread these rules and the enforcement of the rules may increase. Travelers, whether domestic or international, should ensure that they know the rules of the country to which they travel to avoid a costly and potentially time-consuming mistake. $3,000 may not be enough to buy their way out.

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