New National Party leader Christopher Luxon has got off to a good start in his first public opinion poll but the developing situation over the Omicron variant probably represents his first major political test.
Luxon will be judged both on his approach and also whether in the coming weeks he appeals as a prime minister-in- waiting who could cope with the demands of the job.
This is a messy, evolving, challenge of the type where a leader in charge of government would have to think on his or her feet, consult, adapt, weigh multiple factors, act quickly, and be prepared to change plans.
Any changes would have to be carefully explained to the public with as much clarity as an unclear situation allows. Politicians would strive to seem decisive and reassuring rather than appearing slow and complacent.
Of course, these are all things the Government is having to consider now, but Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and her deputy Grant Robertson are old hands and known quantities when it comes to crises. Luxon will be assessed in a different light.
There are major issues for them and other ministers to negotiate, especially whether the border reopening targets have to be delayed and how quickly can the booster shot programme and vaccines for kids be ramped up.
With countries in the Northern Hemisphere currently setting records for new daily case numbers, a delay at the border of a month or two would be prudent.
There are pitfalls to avoid: How bad would it look if this new variant escaped into the community in a similar way to Delta? How does the Government deal with Omicron without appearing to stall and backtrack?
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Regardless of how damaging Omicron proves to be over the Northern Hemisphere winter, New Zealand is in a better position to face it now than we were at the beginning of the year. But we are still not yet in the best position we realistically could be.
Variant or not, plenty of New Zealanders will want to see family and friends from overseas next year or to travel abroad into the northern spring, summer or autumn. Those who have had two shots and aim to get a third will want the option of travel in the better weather.
For the political and health leaders, it's more testing times ahead.