As we say goodbye to 2021 and welcome in 2022, it's a good time to catch up on the very best of the Herald columnists we enjoyed reading over the last 12 months. From politics to sport, from business to entertainment and lifestyle, these are the voices and views our audience loved the most. Today it's the top five from Derek Cheng.
Preparations into opening Fortress NZ are under way. What will 2022 look like? -July 19
New research into how the virus behaves in vaccinated populations and improvements on how to treat Covid patients has Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern mulling over whether elimination continues to be the best path forward – especially as other countries signal a move to "living with the virus".
Modelling suggests that mitigation in a vaccinated New Zealand with more open borders could lead to fewer than 100 Covid-deaths a year - but would that be politically acceptable?
On the flipside, 2022 could also turn out to be little different from the Fortress NZ we have now - especially if the vaccine rollout is delayed, uptake is low, and the world is grappling with a new virus variant that is more contagious and resistant to vaccines.
It looks like Jacinda Ardern has waved the white flag to Delta - but she hasn't - October 7
We should brace ourselves for the likelihood that the Covid-free haven we've been enjoying is goneburger and not coming back.
It might return, if this Delta outbreak is extinguished - an increasingly unlikely prospect. It might also return via vaccination - by mid-December at the earliest - but in a different form.
Getting there is what Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern is calling the transition, which has been broadly interpreted as abandoning elimination as vaccination coverage increases.
It certainly seemed like elimination had been abandoned.
There was the shifting of Auckland from alert level 4 to 3 while there were still pockets of community transmission.
There was Monday's decision to allow Auckland households to mingle outdoors at the same time as case numbers were trending up.
Then, yesterday, areas outside the Waikato boundary were left at level 2 despite new cases popping up.
It left an impression of a Government that used to throw everything at the virus, but had decided not to anymore. Ardern was waving the white flag.
But she wasn't.
Sir David Skegg warned about a Delta outbreak - 'Our luck ran out this time' - October 25
Top epidemiologist Sir David Skegg says the loss of New Zealand's Covid-free "Shangri-la" is due in part to decades of public health neglect, as well as bad luck.
He also warned that contact-tracing capacity - which was severely stretched when case numbers were lower than they currently are - still needed to be strengthened, while the work to add saliva testing and rapid antigen testing to the toolbox had been slow.
And while he still hoped for New Zealand to continue to have a world-leading response, he feared an under-resourced health system will not be able to cope with whatever Covid throws at it in coming years.
Skegg spoke to the Herald exclusively as an independent expert, rather than from his position as chairman of a Covid-19 advisory group to the Government.
He has been warning to expect, and prepare for, a Delta outbreak since well before this one started.
"Whereas we had been lucky after several previous incursions of SARS-CoV-2, our luck ran out this time," he said.
Hundreds of cases now self-isolating. Why can't vaxed travellers do the same? - October 26
There are currently hundreds of Delta-infected Aucklanders isolating at home, but fully vaccinated travellers who have tested negative still have to spend 14 days in MIQ.
Such strict MIQ rules were needed while Auckland was part of the country's Covid-free bubble, but that has well and truly burst.
So how much risk is too much? And is that threshold crossed with a fully vaccinated person in home-isolation in Auckland, who likely doesn't have the virus because they've already tested negative?
An announcement on MIQ changes is expected some time this week, but there have already been hints that the MIQ gates will not open wider until the start of next year - though shorter MIQ stays are expected to start sooner.
Why Jacinda Ardern now wants two classes of Kiwis - October 27
Having previously dismissed the idea, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern conceded on Friday that the new traffic light system effectively created two classes of people - the vaccinated and the unvaccinated.
Whether this is warranted depends on whether you think the ends justify the means.
Ardern could have decided to allow the same freedoms to all Kiwis under the new system, but she believes that would be too much of a burden on the vaccinated.
Instead the unvaccinated, if there is increasing community transmission, will face level 3-type restrictions on gatherings and hospitality venues, while businesses using vaccine certificates will have far more freedom to operate.
But Ardern said it's not just about an incentive to get vaccinated, or certainty for businesses.