As 2021 looks more and more like a year in pandemic limbo, with most of us having to wait some months for vaccines, now is the time to plan ahead.
If last year showed anything, it is that insufficient planning and foresight means missteps and lost opportunities.
New variants of the current coronavirus will likely prolong the world's problems with it.
More viruses will certainly appear at the same time as climate impacts will become increasingly severe and noticeable in our lives.
People generally aren't great at thinking several steps ahead when there's the here-and-now to focus on. If we were, climate change would be a curve we flattened some time ago. That short-termism means we tend to learn from our shortcomings.
Last year offered plenty of lessons both worldwide and locally.
For instance, the creation of vaccines in record time was a great positive of 2020. There are now six that studies show to be effective - Pfizer/BioNTech, AstraZeneca/Oxford, Johnson&Johnson, Novavax, Moderna and SputnikV. That sets up a platform which will allow a quick reaction to future virus threats and ongoing updates to any dangerous Covid-19 mutations.
Governments invested in vaccine projects and a production process ran alongside research and trials. Yet there wasn't enough international co-operation by governments over vaccine development, production and distribution. There appeared to be too much reliance on the private sector to deliver on a public health and economic crisis crucial to all countries.
The pandemic showed that all the levers have to be pulled at a time of major crisis. In the United States the pandemic got out of hand in part because of a lack of a national plan and insufficient heft from the federal government to help in a practical, organisational and leadership way.
For instance, it has been known for nearly a year that masks were key to stopping the spread. And yet there was a shortage and scramble for frontline protective equipment at the start and then, eventually, a focus on homemade cloth masks for the public.
There has been some research into protective coatings for masks but no massively ramped-up production of top-quality masks for the public. Only recently have some countries pushed for the wearing of the highly protective types of masks on public transport.
A key error was making the messaging about wearing a mask to protect other people rather than the, far more realistic, appeal to people to protect themselves.
What's needed now is a mask that is low-cost, re-wearable, comfortable, well-fitted, easily available and as close to 100 per cent protective as possible. A cheap home test that is adaptable to different virus outbreaks is also a priority. The US has struck a deal with Australian company Ellume to make millions of at-home, over-the-counter Covid-19 tests.
There are specific things that need to be looked at in New Zealand.
Do we need to create custom-built facilities in a more remote setting that can be used for quarantine to reduce the chance of border breaches? Do we need a dedicated agency to oversee planning and protocols?
What practical steps can be taken to help businesses keep trading during lockdowns? More use of apps and websites for ordering and payment, safe pick-up boxes and window slots where goods can be passed to a customer? And more use of the outdoors for sales, eating and events, where good ventilation is an asset and people can maintain distance.
Overall, governments around the world will see the need for both more co-ordination and collective planning but also self-preservation.
Countries will want to build their own supply chains for critical gear to future-proof themselves.