One of the consequences of the strict U.S. travel restrictions imposed in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak is that it's difficult for some Chinese nationals to return home.
At noon on Sunday, a new White House policy took effect halting direct flights to and from China — an effort to stop the spread of the deadly new virus that’s infected people in 36 countries, including the U.S.
Joannie Hsieh, a principal broker at Central Pacific Properties, works with Chinese nationals interested in purchasing property in Hawaii. She estimates that about 20 of her clients and their families are having difficulty finding a way back to China since the direct China Eastern Airlines flights to Hawaii have been indefinitely cancelled.
“Their hotel accommodation bill is really high, over $10,000. Most of them have extended [their stay] twice,” Hsieh said. “A lot of people cannot wait that long. So they have to [book] the stopover in Japan and then another one going back to China.”
She said many of the visitors came to Hawaii around mid-January before the travel restrictions went into place. She said the group includes travelers from Canton, Beijing and Shanghai.
A spokesman from the Hawaii Department of Transportation said although there are no longer direct flights to China, Chinese nationals can return home by flying first to another country, such as Japan or Korea.
According to state health officials, there are still no cases of coronavirus in Hawaii. There are 11 cases on the U.S mainland. China, where the outbreak began, has reported 28,000 cases and 563 deaths.
The Department of Health advises the public against using facemasks. State Health Director Bruce Anderson explained that masks are only helpful to keep yourself from infecting other people, and will not prevent the infection itself.
Symptoms of the coronavirus are similar to the flu and include fever, coughing and difficulty breathing. The health department wants those who suspect they have the virus to call the state reporting line at 808-586-4586.