New Zealand hitting a record high for Covid-19 cases at the Waitangi holiday weekend illustrates what a different stage of the pandemic this is to last year.
The 243 new daily coronavirus cases announced on Saturday were the most for a single day over the entire pandemic.
It surpassed the previous high of 222 on November 16 during the Delta outbreak. People will easily remember the slow accumulation of Delta cases over two months to get to that point.
The Omicron variant instead shoots up vertically. After the country was put back under the red light setting, community cases jumped from 25 on January 25 to the 243 on Saturday. Yesterday new cases fell back to 208.
A key question is: Will there be a marked divide between Omicron case numbers and severe outcomes in this wave because of New Zealand's border controls, high vaccine coverage and health measures?
High case numbers would likely cause disruption as workers get infected but under Omicron, case numbers are not expected to carry the same health significance as they did with Delta - especially if booster dose take-up is good. The Ministry of Health says: "Boosters lower your chances of getting very sick and being hospitalised. Being boosted also helps slow the spread of the virus."
And so far Omicron cases have been tracking slightly below a local forecast made a week ago, raising hope that New Zealand could do a reasonable job of flattening the curve.
Te Pūnaha Matatini modeller Dr Dion O'Neale had expected 200 community cases daily by last Wednesday and 400 by the end of the week, describing it as a "rough pattern of taking around three days to double" seen elsewhere in the world.
Cases were 209 on Friday, 147 on Thursday and 142 on Wednesday, 126 on Tuesday and 91 on Monday.
Otago University epidemiologist Professor Nick Wilson said New Zealand could have a flatter wave than Australia. "Some of the Australian states had a very unfortunate 'let it rip' attitude, especially New South Wales, and so at the start of the Omicron outbreak, they had minimal controls in place."
People should watch for how soon the daily case pace quickens and whether it continues to diverge markedly with hospitalisations, numbers of people in ICU and deaths.
So far, hospital Covid numbers under Omicron have been static, but it is early days.
Yesterday there were 12 people in hospital, and one in ICU. On January 25, there were 10 people in hospital and no one in ICU.
On November 16 when Delta hit its case high there were 91 people in hospital, seven in ICU. From November 13 to 19, there were five Covid deaths.
The move to cut the waiting time for a booster to three months instead of four months after the second vaccine shot has resulted in an increase in demand for them.
There were 66,864 boosters given in Saturday's ministry figures and 48,947 yesterday. And the overall total has risen to 1,561,837 or 33.3 per cent of the eligible population.
Far more people need to get boosters - the best shield against Omicron - but at least 90 per cent of the nearly 4.7 million eligible New Zealanders aged over 5 have at least some degree of Covid vaccine protection.