The prising loose of restrictions has felt painstakingly slow from within the Auckland lockdown.
Few of the citizens of Tamaki Makaurau would have warmly greeted the news on Monday that Waikato would move to alert level 2 this morning. One tweak aside, the City of Sails remains an island apart, frozen in the moment the clocks stopped on August 17 - three months ago.
The move to alert level 3, step 2, at least allowed retail to open up to the same procedures as supermarkets but many activities and facilities remain elusively out-of-bounds.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern this week began outlining the plan. The settings for Auckland will be reviewed next Monday, where a stage change may occur.
Cabinet will discuss the latest national figures and sign off new orders for the country on November 29.
The Herald understands the rest of New Zealand could move to a new regime a week to 10 days after those November 29 deliberations, and Auckland's boundaries will reopen soon after that, also by the middle of next month.
This would deftly allow Ardern's promise to have "Aucklanders able to travel through summer and... able to reunite with family for Christmas". Mid-December is only a week out and will lend more urgency to preparations to celebrate the day.
The Prime Minister prefers to put the whole country into the traffic light system as soon as possible. Public health advice is that the red light precautions are safer than level 2.
The traffic light system takes into account the vaccination status of the population. Some regions with lower vaccine percentages may find themselves moving from alert level 2 into a more restrictive red light scenario.
Ardern had earlier set a target of 90 per cent vaccinated for a district health board region to move into the new regime - set at the colours of red, orange and green according to the numbers of cases and the risk factors .
However, it now appears this target won't be rigidly adhered to. Some regions, close to the magic figure but relatively isolated from the hot spots of the Delta outbreak will likely transition through the stages earlier.
Hāpai Te Hauora chief executive Selah Hart fears an early move to the traffic light framework could "come at a cost to humans" in communities with low vaccination rates. Covid-19 analyst Dr Rawiri Taonui estimates there could be 6000 cases among Māori by Christmas.
It has always been clear the easing of precautions leads to more cases and more potential for hospital admissions and death.
Despite vocal and visible protests, the vast majority of Aucklanders have performed impressively during the outbreak and their efforts have undoubtedly saved many lives. Covid deaths per 100,000 people are 232 for the United States and 214 for the United Kingdom but 0.7 for New Zealand.
However carefully it is managed, unbolting the shutters on Auckland will unleash the virus to seek out the unvaccinated. The more who roll up their sleeves in the coming weeks, the better off we will all be.