A year on from the pandemic's first wave of infections, lockdowns and border closures in Australasia, both countries are in the midst of a second challenging phase.
This one involves the threat of coronavirus variants coming ashore, dealing with vaccine rollouts and navigating the pandemic endgame.
It's a year since all returning Kiwis were first required to go through MIQ facilities.
Having the right initial strategies to protect the public counted for a lot. Thankfully, both New Zealand and Australia did not have to live with high levels of death and infection. While other regions struggled, the pandemic essentially peaked here last April.
Our coronavirus curve became a line. We were able to do normal things. A suspicion then that the pandemic's path was running almost too smoothly in this part of the world has been borne out by what has happened since.
Late winter outbreaks in Melbourne and Auckland last year, followed by the rise of variants and vaccines this year, have made the jobs of politicians and health officials increasingly more complicated.
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There has been a silver lining to all this. Missteps and evolving expectations have gradually meant more public scrutiny, which has resulted in necessary changes. If things appear to be managed adequately, there's less incentive to look deeper at how they could be improved or plan ahead. The Government and health authorities have often looked reactive, but have also made good calls, such as going with a single, highly effective vaccine and concentrating the early rollout on border workers and the South Auckland community.
In recent months pre-travel testing has been introduced and last week the Government took drastic temporary action to try to deal with a surge in the numbers of incoming infected returnees from India. The transtasman bubble has a date and we are told the vaccine rollout will be revving up. There have been a number of changes to MIQ, including moving unvaccinated workers to low-risk jobs. A group of scientific experts is going to advise the Government on key decisions over vaccines and the border. There has even been a fresh look at the idea of a purpose-built MIQ facility to reduce the risk of outbreaks in central Auckland.
Another idea, argued for in February, that New Zealand and Australia should co-operate to produce high-tech mRNA medicines, hasn't caught anyone's imagination. But health experts across the Ditch are at least discussing whether mRNA vaccines such as the Pfizer/BioNTech dose can be manufactured in Australia. The answer appears to be yes, with investment.
A year on, there's once again a lot to deal with, even as the pandemic's end gets closer. We are back in the thick of it.