It was only January, though it seems like years ago, when we read China had shut down a whole city, confining residents to their homes, to contain another virus that had crossed from an animal to humans. Gee, we thought, that couldn't be done in a Western democracy.
We were not totally wrong. It turned out it could be done – once, in a panic. Covid-19 hit Western countries hard in February and by early March hospitals in some parts of Europe could not cope. But could it happen again?
Epidemiologists continue to warn the virus is still very much alive and spreading around the world as populations emerge from lockdown. Close to home, Melbourne has recorded new outbreaks this week and here in New Zealand our widely acclaimed "elimination" of the disease has been tarnished by the celebrated ride of "Thelma and Louise".
But while there is general expectation of a second wave, there is no stomach for second lockdowns. I doubt Western governments would dare do this again. Next time more people might not be as easily persuaded this disease warrants such a drastic cure, especially if the cure hasn't worked.
Just before those two unnamed women were released from quarantine in Auckland last week and drove to Wellington with the virus, the Herald on Sunday had reported the cost of holding people in hotels for 14 days after their arrival in New Zealand.
The story mentioned that of 7755 travellers accommodated over the first 40 days of the managed isolation policy, 12 had tested positive for the disease. Think about those figures. That's about one in every 640 tests. Imagine administering more than 600 tests and not once finding a case. I'd imagine you'd start to doubt the point of the exercise.
So let's not be too hard on whoever it was who let Thelma and Louise out on compassionate leave without testing them before they left.
We'll never know who it was, because the Prime Minister said she isn't interested in blaming an individual, it was a "system" failure, she says. Aren't they all? If the public service could bring itself to hold individuals to account, its system might not have these failures.
Instead, we've had the army called in to run the hotels and poor Dr Ashley Bloomfield looks now less heroic than hapless as he has his Health Ministry check on all the travellers it has let out on its watch.
The result so far is another remarkable testament to the rarity of this disease. Up to 1300 arrivals from overseas have been allowed to leave quarantine without a parting test and, as yet, we've seen no outbreak as a result.
University of Auckland medical professor Des Gorman says, "We have to make the assumption these people have reseeded the infection in the community" and people were lined up in their cars at testing centres in Auckland this week.
Sooner or later we'll probably find another cluster but really, can a disease so hard to find be worth the effort?
Experts say we may have to live with Covid-19 until a vaccine is found or it mutates for better or worse or simply dies out, as viruses can do. But living with it cannot mean periodic suspensions of civil liberties and economic life.
Citizens of liberal democracies accepted more restrictions on their liberties than we thought, six months ago, we would ever accept. We accepted them for one good reason: we were told our hospitals lacked the capacity to treat the projected peak of potentially fatal cases.
That reason became rather lost once we were locked down for a national emergency of wartime proportions and it was soon apparent our hospitals would not be stretched. By then we were giving the Government and the Prime Minister, in particular, wartime levels of admiration and compliance with her instructions.
Flushed with success, she then raised the stakes against Covid-19 from containment to elimination in New Zealand. That decision looked naive and foolish at the time, it looks even more foolish now.
For 22 days we had no new cases, which turned out to owe more to luck than good management of the border. Now it's time, I think, to relax, get real, start re-opening the country and concentrate anti-viral efforts on rest homes and those vulnerable to respiratory illness.
We locked down once so that health authorities could gear up for a pandemic. We have to trust that they are ready for the next wave.
We have spent 20 years of fiscal insurance to preserve jobs and business through one lockdown, we cannot afford another. Some have lost jobs and lifetime investments, the economy may take another 20 years to recover.
Next time a pandemic threatens we need to remember: you don't destroy a village to save it.