A likely new Covid-19 wave, fuelled by wily Omicron subvariants, is dampening hopes at the start of the year that the coronavirus might slowly become more manageable by year's end.
Some overseas experts offered the hope that over the northern summer the pandemic might weaken.
The World Health Organisation's Europe director Hans Kluge saw a 'plausible engame' to the pandemic back in January and the top United States science adviser Anthony Fauci was also optimistic.
That was before the Omicron variant wave washed ashore in New Zealand to devastating effect between March and mid-April, before settling on a still-high plateau.
Experts in New Zealand have for a while been predicting a rise in cases in our late winter and that could be underway already, although more days of data will give a better view.
The wider picture is that case numbers and hospitalisations for Covid are starting to spike in New Zealand and other countries, regardless of the season, as Omicron BA.5 - which is expert at evading immunity - becomes the dominant form of the virus.
Another tricky subvariant, BA.2.75, has also been found here.
Countries with upward trends include Australia, France, Singapore, Greece, Italy, Germany, Israel and Austria.
Confirmed community cases in New Zealand were at 10,710 on Thursday - the highest number since 11,217 on April 20. The overall highest daily new case figure under the orange settings was 13,636 on April 16.
Wednesday and Tuesday this week produced 10,290 and 9629 cases, while the seven-day rolling average on Thursday was 8013, compared with 6114 a week earlier.
The numbers of people in hospital with or because of Covid are also up. They have jumped from 417 on July 1 to 554 a week later.
It's clear the Omicron family tree of Covid is a threat that has evolved to be more infectious and more capable of reinfecting people. Each reinfection gives the virus another chance to damage the host's body. BA.5 is about twice as transmissible as the original Omicron strain.
As far as Western governments and health authorities are concerned, the world has moved beyond the emergency stage of the pandemic and moderate interventions are sufficient. There is little appetite for new lockdowns in the challenging global economic situation and the Government appears very reluctant to consider a shift to red.
Instead, the trends are still moving in the opposite direction. Portugal has dropped all Covid entry requirements such as proof of vaccination or a negative test. Proof of Covid vaccination is also no longer needed to travel to Australia. France's health minister asked - but is not mandating - that people start wearing masks again in crowded areas, shops and public transport.
But it's still a struggle for the health system to cope with and a daily risk for the public.
Being up to date on vaccine shots and wearing good masks in public indoor places will still give good protection against hospitalisation and death from Covid for most people, and help prevent virus spread. Avoiding badly ventilated buildings, staying home when sick, rapid testing if any symptoms occur, and social distancing all help people to protect themselves.
Both New Zealand and Australia have moved to widen eligibility for second booster shots of the original vaccine to people over 50. The advisory board in Australia also recommends that anyone over 30 who wants one should get it.
Britain is expected to allow people aged over 50 to get a jab in the northern autumn.
The US is trying to widen access to the anti-viral pill Paxlovid by allowing pharmacists to prescribe it.
Pfizer has said it could have an updated vaccine specifically targeting Omicron strains ready to be distributed in the US in October. Australia has invited Pfizer to apply for approval on Omicron shots.
For New Zealand, the time for booster take-up is now because of winter and waning immunity from when primary doses and first boosters were given. The spike in cases and hospitalisations here could be mainly because of that immunity fade especially as many eligible people did not bother getting a first booster.
A top-up now for those aged over 50 and others in risk categories seems a good idea as Covid cases worsen again.