If you don't have children at school, you'd be forgiven for thinking everything is back to normal.
But for those who do have children in daycare or school, the start of the new school term is a stark reminder that all is not well.
I have two school-aged children, my 9-year-old son, and almost 6-year-old daughter.
My son, who is in Year 5, spends all day wearing a facemask. He comes home with a flushed and itchy face, exhausted because he feels he's not getting enough oxygen.
My daughter, who basically missed out on her first year of school because of lockdowns, has had to find her way to her classroom on her own. We are not allowed on the school grounds and her older brother isn't allowed to walk her to her class.
The playgrounds and the field are cordoned off and they can't be used across year groups. Seniors are not allowed on the playground at all.
During lunch some year-groups have to sit outside for socially distancing purposes, without shelter, eating their lunch.
Specialist teaching is no longer available. The PE teacher can't work across year groups, choir is cancelled and after-school clubs no longer offered. There is no extension learning.
The drinking fountains are shut off. One parent told me her daughter forgot her drink bottle and had to go without water for the day.
Assemblies are cancelled. Last year there were no awards, camps and leaving celebrations were also cancelled.
Worst of all has been the impact on education.
Many of our friends' children couldn't do Year 1 and were instead placed straight into Year 2. They have started Year 3 with only one year of uninterrupted schooling.
We are the lucky ones. Our daughter's birthday just missed the cut-off, meaning she is still in Year 1. I can't comprehend her being in Year 2 if she had been a month older.
None of this is the fault of the school, the teaching staff, or the principal. They are working their hardest to make sure they are meeting the rules and to allay the fears of concerned parents.
Their communication, planning, and proactiveness need to be commended, but they've been made to become public health experts and this is simply not fair.
There's a stark difference between schools. Many schools require a negative PCR test and won't accept RATs for a close contact to return to school, while other schools encourage RATs.
Some schools say children who test negative still aren't allowed to return to school unless they are symptom-free. A common cough can drag on for weeks.
There are whole year groups being put into homeschooling because one child has tested positive, while in other instances the classmates of a child testing positive can continue going to school.
Some private schools have even given up, telling parents that they no longer require a negative test if their kids appear healthy.
When I recently asked on social media what parents were experiencing at their schools, I was overwhelmed by the feedback.
I learned it's tough not only in schools, but also in early childhood education and at some universities, which are now even enforcing vaccination for online attendance, with additional rules around dorm rooms and interactions.
With our 5-month-old baby still at home, I hadn't given much thought about what daycare looked like, but many have rules that include no singing, no heating food, no yogurts, no playdough, and no shared activities.
Like schools, parents can't take their children to their classroom, leaving many teary toddlers being handed over to caregivers covered in masks who do their best to give them reassurance.
I know how much my baby relies on my facial expressions during the day, so it breaks my heart knowing that a whole generation of young children have their caregivers hidden behind masks.
Don't get me wrong, I'm double-vaccinated, my kids are vaccinated, and I understand the reason for mask-wearing. But I want to know the pathway out of this.
When will we feel comfortable allowing our educators to engage with our children? When will I be able to walk my daughter to her classroom?
Our children are paying a high price, not only in their education but also in their emotional and mental wellbeing.
I was told in a recent meeting that close to 50 per cent of Year 11, 12, and 13s have not returned to schooling in South Auckland. Surely this can't be acceptable?
We are setting up an entire generation to leave school with substandard educational outcomes.
You may wonder why I'm posing these questions in the eye of the storm. But with Sweden having experienced an estimated 50,000 cases per day in February, it's important that we understand what it looks like in other countries.
In Sweden, other than children staying home when unwell, school is largely back to normal and has been largely normal through the entire pandemic.
Yes, there are disruptions when staff are sick and, in some cases, closures, but it's a risk they are prepared to take with Omicron being mild and vaccinations high.
Neither staff nor children are wearing face masks because the concern for the children's wellbeing outweighs the actual risk.
There is widespread use of RATs both for staff and children. Surveillance testing is done with rigour and access to tests is ubiquitous.
Meanwhile in New Zealand, I know of one school where close to 30 teachers are either home isolating or are at home with COVID. This means significant disruption to schooling including finishing early each day.
Therefore, we must start considering our school infrastructure and those who work in it as essential. We must ensure all schools have easy access to RATs, something which I'm told is still inconsistent and that they are treated as essential workers.
It's incredible to put all this onus on our schools, yet make it so difficult to access the tools they need.
We need to reframe the narrative and create a positive learning environment which feels more normal for our children. And we need to get all kids back to school, where they can learn and play.
That is what our children deserve.
• Cecilia Robinson is the founder and co-CEO of health startup Tend.