No-one knows for sure how long the pandemic will plague New Zealand and the rest of the world, but the country is in a reckoning with the coronavirus, and near the end of a key phase.
Subduing the Covid-19 outbreak and getting to the highest vaccine level possible by year's end is the country's best hope of some form of restricted reopening next year, probably with the aid of booster shots.
At the moment it looks tough to pull off. We will get a better idea in the coming days but experts believe Auckland could be in lockdown for weeks.
The outbreak is testing whether lockdowns still work well enough in the age of Delta and whether our health, testing and tracing systems, and staffing hold up under the strain.
Should they do so, the country can take a different but still difficult, direction.
It's not a given. Countries overseas with much higher vaccination rates are battling Delta variant waves. New South Wales crashed above 1000 cases in one day on Thursday.
The most encouraging part of this dreary lockdown has been the surge in vaccinations and public interest in being vaccinated. New Zealand is still well behind other comparable countries in its rollout, but at least the trends are in the right direction.
On Wednesday, 87,772 doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine were delivered and 270,000 bookings made. That compares to 52,106 jabs administered a week ago and 102,000 bookings.
The Government has been trying to push things along by opening bookings for people aged 30 and above and allowing shots for 15 to 12-year-olds, encouraging vaccinations of essential workers, and promising there will be more medical places available where people can get jabbed.
The booking numbers are promising but, at present, only about 45 per cent of the 4.35 million people eligible for a vaccine have had one or two jabs. Both doses are needed for strong immunity. People booking now will still have to wait weeks. Time is of the essence, especially in Auckland.
A companion effort to provide more immediate access, in highly visible ways that promote vaccination, would be helpful. The theme should be to go where the people go.
Some pop-up testing sites could pivot into pop-up vaccination sites instead - if rapid saliva-based tests were widely available to the public as well as border staff.
Home saliva tests are cheap and available in stores in European countries. People can use them to monitor their infectious status at home. That's safer for people than going out to get a standard test and also means swab-takers could vaccinate instead.
Rapid and mass vaccination efforts may be needed in Auckland if the lockdown measures fail to stem the upward curve of new cases.
At the least, the drive-through model of vaccination should be scaled-up quickly. Two have opened in Wellington, including one at a Porirua shopping centre carpark.
Once areas of the country drop down in alert levels, there's no reason why a process of staff being offered vaccines in their workplaces - like flu jabs - couldn't be accelerated, or why pop-up clinics couldn't occur at shopping centres and universities.
Overseas, the use of mandatory rules over coronavirus vaccinations have been growing at a rapid rate. They also appear to be hardening from earlier "Covid passes" in Europe, which offered alternatives to vaccination such as a negative test or evidence of recovery from infection.
United States military service members must immediately begin to get a Covid vaccine. Anyone who goes into the US offices of investment bank Goldman Sachs will have to be fully vaccinated. British Columbia in Canada will demand proof of vaccination for people attending a concert, sports, a film, eatery, gym or nightclub.
Air Canada plans to require all employees to be vaccinated by the end of October and Delta Airlines is bringing in a monthly US$200 surcharge on unvaccinated staff who are in the firm's healthcare scheme.
Mandatory vaccination to fly could be just around the corner.
If the coronavirus experience was a long-haul flight, the map on our screens would be showing the plane nearing a halfway stopover destination.
New Zealand had an impressive takeoff in stormy weather. But there's been periods of turbulence amid general calm since, on what has seemed an endless journey.
We're now awake and alert, in the first stage of preparation for descent.
The flight to get to this point might have been long, tiring and frustrating, but the next bit is crucial. Fasten the seatbelts and stick the landing.