New Zealand on Thursday laid out its plan for easing some of the world’s toughest border curbs, which have kept out the highly contagious delta variant and seen the island nation effectively free of COVID-19 for much of the pandemic.

The government will speed up its vaccine rollout this year and begin a phased reopening of the border in early 2022, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said Thursday in Wellington. Vaccinated travelers from low-risk countries will eventually be able to enter New Zealand without going into quarantine, she said.

"Getting vaccinated is the number one thing everyone can do to be protected against COVID-19, help accelerate our economic recovery, reduce the risk of lockdowns and safely allow New Zealand’s borders to begin reopening next year,” Ardern said. "The first step in our plan is speeding up the vaccination process to ensure everyone is at least partially vaccinated as soon as possible to reduce the risk and impact of delta entering the country.”