It seems an eternity since Jacinda Ardern said, "Our goal is to get the management of Covid-19 to a similar place as we do seasonally with the flu. It won't be a disease we will see simply disappear after one round of vaccine. Our goal has to be to put in a place, as we do every year with the flu, a vaccine programme and maintain a degree of normality in the meantime."
It seems an eternity but it was just last January. She was speaking in the summer sunshine at Nelson, addressing her MPs at their first caucus of the year she was calling "the year of the vaccine". She'd had a few weeks holiday, a few weeks without epidemiologists in her ear, a chance to think about how the virus was mutating overseas and how we would have to live with it.
She didn't actually say there would be no more lockdowns after the year of the vaccine but it was a reasonable inference. We don't lock down against new strains of the flu which kill about 500 New Zealanders a year.
I had my second jab on Monday, still fondly believing that it was the key to getting from here to where I think we need to be, a place with borders opening for the vaccinated and businesses no longer facing the risk of sudden closure every time a new variant of Covid-19 arrives.
The next day that hope was dashed. Not because the Delta variant had arrived, nothing was more likely. And not because we were going into another lockdown, the Government had warned that is what it would do if Delta arrived before we were all vaccinated. The really chilling news for me came after the announcement.
In the questions that followed, the Prime Minister was asked if more vaccination would have avoided this lockdown and she replied: "Even some of those countries with some of the highest vaccination rates in the world are still seeing cases of the Delta variant. So yes, vaccination makes a difference to hospitalisations and deaths but it is not the entire answer."
The director general of Health, Ashley Bloomfield, then chimed in to make the problem crystal clear. "Even with high vaccination rates we are still going to require a range of public health measures," he said. "While we continue to pursue an elimination strategy, doing everything we can to keep it out, our approach will be to go hard and stamp it out."
While we continue to pursue an elimination strategy... That's our problem right there. It means zero tolerance of this virus, it means full lockdowns will be needed every time a new variant appears because they will be capable of spreading faster than the one before. That's why viruses mutate.
The Prime Minister calls Delta a "game-changer" but everything I read from (reputable sources in) countries where Delta has been spreading for many months now suggests that while it carries a higher viral load, making it much more contagious than previous variants and more infectious for the young, it is not clear that it is producing more illness and death.
To the question of whether Delta makes you sicker, the YaleMedicine website says, "Many scientists say they don't know yet. A study from Scotland showed the Delta variant was about twice as likely as Alpha to result in hospitalisation in unvaccinated individuals but other data has shown no significant difference."
Oddly our Ministry of Health has no doubt. "Delta can cause people to develop more serious Covid-19 illness than other variants of the virus," its website declares. "People with a Delta infection are at higher risk of needing hospitalization."
The Prime Minister accepts that advice absolutely. Announcing the lockdown she called Delta "a more dangerous enemy", "more liable to cause serious illness", frequently adding, "as we see in Sydney".
Sydney's Delta outbreak was two months old on Tuesday. By then it had recorded 8218 cases in a largely unvaccinated city of five million and the death toll stood at 56, which by my calculation is about 0.6 per cent, not more than the estimated fatality rates of Covid-19 from the beginning.
No other Western country is following an elimination strategy. Even Australia, whose "suppression" policy was similar, is coming to terms with Delta. As New South Wales case numbers continued to rise this week, Premier Gladys Berejiklian said, "It's not possible to eliminate it completely. We have to learn to live with it."
That's more or less what our Prime Minister said in January, but not now. "Elimination is still the best strategy in the world, even with high vaccination," she declared as she locked us down again.