Australia's Omicron outbreak continues to provide sobering lessons as the highly contagious Covid-19 variant peppers our border.
We already knew a widespread outbreak would swamp hospitals as, even with the reportedly milder symptoms, massive infections mean high numbers needing intensive care.
Victoria alone recorded 51,356 new cases and nine Covid deaths in the 24 hours up to yesterday morning. There were 644 infected people in Victorian hospitals, with 106 in intensive care and 24 on ventilators.
The role of rapid antigen tests (RATs) has increasingly come to the fore. Leaving people queued in cars for hours at polymerase chain reaction (PCR) testing centres has, of necessity, been abandoned as anachronistic.
PCR testing centres in several Australian states have been forced to close while clinicians process the backlog of tests.
Victoria is the first mainland Australian state to set up a RAT reporting system. Anyone who tests positive via RAT is now considered a probable Covid case and must immediately isolate for seven days and notify their contacts - just like those who test positive on a PCR test.
It is mandatory to report the test result to the Department of Health via an online portal that opened on Friday or phone.
It is clear New Zealand needs to ensure adequate stocks of rapid antigen tests are available and bolster reporting systems to match Victoria. We already know our PCR testing regime, which rose admirably to the needs of earlier clusters, cannot cope with an Omicron outbreak.
Institute of Medical Laboratory Science president Terry Taylor told RNZ New Zealand's labs would struggle to cope with unchecked PCR testing rates even at the level of New South Wales. "Their labs have been doing upwards of 100,000 PCR tests a day, which we have no question would inundate our own labs and more than likely overrun them."
New Zealand's PCR testing capacity is being expanded to manage around 60,000 swabs per day from February, but this reportedly depends on combining samples for testing, which only works when most of the results are negative.
Late last year, a collective of businesses were given the green light to import more than 300,000 RAT kits into New Zealand, the New Zealand Government announced RATs would be made available to some groups from mid-December.
There is currently a global shortage of RAT kits, caused by combination of a high capacity of Christmas travellers needing more tests for each leg of journeys and Omicron outbreaks affecting supply chains.
The latter is another important lesson. High numbers of workers infected and needing to isolate impacts on layers of provision, from ports to road and rail transport, to the ability to stock supermarket shelves. Contingencies need to be considered now to meet these challenges.
Omicron is a different creature to Delta, although scientists are still confirming what sets it apart. But Australia's experience with Delta was very different to New Zealand. There is good cause to believe New Zealand's experience with Omicron will also differ.
Whether it is better or worse depends, to some degree, on how much we can learn and act on before it arrives.