The dentist leaned in closer and said, "I wish the damn thing would get in actually." That was early in December, we'd just emerged from the long Delta lockdown and Omicron was looming. You weren't supposed to say things like that.
Lying flat with my jaw immobilised, I was in no position to say anything anyway, but I shared the sentiment. We couldn't go on like this, shutting down every time the virus appeared, our borders closed indefinitely.
As the characteristics of the Omicron variant became clearer in December, our most sensible epidemiologist said something similar. Professor Tony Blakely, now working in Melbourne, gently suggested on TV that Omicron presented new policy possibilities for New Zealand.
It was so infectious that it was probably impossible to keep it out but it caused much less serious illness. He didn't quite say, if you are going to get the virus this is the one to get, but that was the implication.
Some in the Government were thinking the same. The first hint came when Covid Response Minister Chris Hipkins stood in the sun on his mother's lawn and responded calmly to the appearance of an Omicron case at Christmas. The Government did not want Omicron circulating "yet", he said. We all needed another dose of the vaccine first.
This week, with the Cabinet back its summer holiday, it was confirmed, the Government's response to Covid-19 is going to be very different in 2022. It has adopted a three-phase plan that amounts to an early (some might say hasty) retreat from Omicron.
Essentially it will give up the attempt to "stamp it out" when infections are rising at the rate of 1000 new cases a day, which the Prime Minister expected to be happening by next weekend. Thereafter, testing, contact tracing and treatment will be concentrated on the most serious cases and the required isolation periods will be reduced as infections rise to perhaps tens of thousands a day.
It will be interesting to see what will happen if case numbers do not reach 1000 a day by next weekend. Last Sunday, when the plan was announced, there were nine known cases of Omicron in the country. By Wednesday, when Associate Health Minister Ayesha Verrall gave us more details of the plan, the day's increase was 15, hardly exponential spread.
Verrall said the move to phase 2 could come at under 1000 new daily cases. That tells me the Government is resolved to make the move come what may. Phase 1 is not a serious attempt to stamp it out, it's just giving those eligible a fortnight to get their shots.
This plan would not have been an easy decision, considering the vaccine has exceeded expectations against Delta. Within the group of senior ministers that makes these decisions - Jacinda Ardern, Grant Robertson, Andrew Little, Hipkins, Verrall and one or two others – there must have been hope of stamping it out again.
Ardern sounded unusually dispirited in her Monday press conference and it was strange that Verrall fronted on Wednesday rather than the more adept Hipkins. He, I'm sure, is an enthusiast for the Omicron plan but maybe too enthusiastic for the comfort of the cautious.
The plan is far from perfect. If Omicron is going to spread here as rampantly as it has in other places, self-testing kits will be vital for all workplaces and the functioning of the economy. Last Tuesday there were just 29 active cases of Covid in New Zealand and nearly 1000 contacts were isolating.
That's nearly a thousand people, probably perfectly healthy, unable to go to work or school because somebody close to them had returned a positive test. If the same ratio holds when Omicron gets around, the consequences do not bear thinking.
The Government will let staff in health services and other "critical" industries, yet to be named, return to work with a rapid antigen test. All industries should be allowed to use them. It is outrageous the Ministry of Health has been allowed to commandeer ("consolidate", says Dr Bloomfield) companies' overseas orders so that the ministry can decide how a limited supply should be used.
The ministry thinks it is the font of all fairness and expertise in these things though its attempt to monopolise the vaccination programme last year proved otherwise. Let's hope it doesn't take until the second half of this year for us to be able to buy saliva tests in supermarkets.
But at least we're going to join the rest of the world in living with this thing. It will be a tough year, with inflation and probably recession as well as Omicron around. Then we'll get better.