Looking back over 2021 in politics it is hard to avoid the sports cliche of a game of two halves.
Only one ball was in play, Covid-19, and the game changed early in the second half, on August 17 to be precise. That was the day the first case of the Delta variant appeared in New Zealand.
Until then Labour had been coasting on its re-election, no longer encumbered by coalition partners, confident its elimination strategy against Covid-19 was working.
Its confidence was confirmed in February when an outbreak at Papatoetoe High School exposed potentially thousands of people at venues in the south and east of Auckland. But after the entire city had "yo-yo'd" in and out of level 3, the outbreak was contained to 15 cases.
In March Auckland was able to enjoy the America's Cup, albeit with only four syndicates sailing. Emirates Team New Zealand received its usual tumultuous reception on a crowded waterfront the day it won the series. Not a mask or social distance was needed. Was it really this year?
In April the Government began to reopen international borders, allowing quarantine-free entry from Australia. The transtasman bubble was extended to the Cook Islands in May and the Budget celebrated the economic recovery from the previous lockdowns by increasing benefits.
All the while, the "year of the vaccine", as Jacinda Ardern named it in January, was taking its time. Frontline health and border staff were offered shots in February but the Ministry of Health was making heavy weather of planning and organising a general rollout through age groups. Dates were postponed, supplies were uncertain.
In June the Delta variant hit Sydney. The Government paused the travel bubble and held its breath. Most of New Zealand's senior citizens got the vaccine in July but those under 40 were still waiting for it on August 17. The single case that appeared that day was enough for Ardern to announce the country would go into a level 4 lockdown from midnight. She expected it to be "short and sharp".
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It was not to be. August became September. Auckland's alert level was reduced after five weeks and daily case numbers began rising steadily. The virus was spreading in gangs and other groups that, according to Covid-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins, were not observing alert levels.
The elimination goal was abandoned. Vaccination became the next line of defence. The Herald set a 90 per cent target, the Government adopted it. Former Prime Minister Sir John Key called for more urgency and vim in the programme, such as a vaccination "telethon". The Government adopted it.
Key demonstrated what the National Party was not doing under Judith Collins, who was more interested in bringing down her own members. She tried to poison Simon Bridges' reputation and brought herself down. National ended the year more competitive under Christopher Luxon.
New Zealand ends the year with more than 90 per cent of the eligible population vaccinated overall but Māori lagging.
Vaccination certificates are required for holidays and restaurants and much of life. A more virulent Covid variant is looming.
The politics have been hard and the game is not finished.