New Zealand Just Announced Its Reopening Plans

You're gonna have to push back your plans to visit the Shire.

New Zealand’s top leaders are erring on the side of caution when it comes to reopening the country to the world. Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced Thursday that the nation won’t be opening its borders to international travelers until early 2022.

Ardern laid out New Zealand’s plan, which will prioritize a COVID-19 vaccine rollout for those residing in the country ahead of loosening travel restrictions, according to a report by CNN.

With the spread of the Delta variant, many travel and dining restrictions have been put back in place around the world. When New Zealand does eventually open its borders, fully vaccinated travelers from low-risk countries will be able to enter  without many restrictions. But unvaccinated travelers from high-risk countries will be required to quarantine upon arrival, potentially in a military-run hotel. Government officials haven’t said how they will categorize high and low-risk countries.

"While the pandemic continues to rage overseas, and the virus continues to change and mutate, the best thing we can do is lock in the gains achieved to date while keeping our options open," Ardern said in a speech. "Delta is a game-changer in our risk calculation. It could be devastating if it took hold in New Zealand before we have high rates of vaccination."

Since the start of the pandemic, New Zealand’s closed borders have been credited with helping keep the infection rates low. According to the World Health Organization, New Zealand has reported fewer than 2,600 positive cases, out of a population of 5 million. While case numbers have fortunately remained low, New Zealand’s vaccination rate is falling behind other nations. The Associated Press reports that roughly 17% of New Zealanders have been fully vaccinated.

"We cannot keep border restrictions on forever, and to be absolutely clear we don't want to do that either,” Arden said. Those eager to make the trip to New Zealand can mark their calendars for sometime in early 2022.

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Opheli Garcia Lawler is a staff writer at Thrillist. Follow her on Twitter @opheligarciaand Instagram @opheligarcia.