New Zealand has managed to contain COVID-19, and it would like to keep it that way. On Thursday, the government announced the island nation's borders will stay closed to those who aren't residents or citizens for the rest of the year. Starting in the first quarter of 2022, the country will gradually start to reopen to travel, the BBC reports. At that point, New Zealand's vaccine rollout (which is starting to pick up speed after a slow start) will be complete, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says. "A careful approach that says, there won't be zero cases, but when there is one in the community, we crush it, is the best way to maintain our normal lives while we monitor the twists and turns of COVID-19 over the next six months," she said Thursday in announcing the border reopening plan.
Starting in October, the country will try out a new system in which some business travelers returning home can quarantine at their homes rather than in military-run hotels; New Zealand plans to use a similar system next year for fully vaccinated travelers arriving from medium-risk countries, the AP reports. In that system, fully vaccinated travelers from low-risk countries wouldn't need to quarantine at all, while those from high-risk countries (as well as anyone not vaccinated) would complete a 2-week quarantine in a military-run hotel. New Zealand has some of the lowest COVID numbers in the world, Axios reports, having detected no community transmission of the coronavirus in 166 days. On Wednesday, an expert panel advising the government officially recommended New Zealand continue its zero-tolerance approach to virus management: "If this policy were to be abandoned now, so that endemic infection became established, it would probably never be possible to reverse the change," they said. (More on that report here.)