In her first speech of 2021, to a Labour Caucus retreat in Nelson, the Prime Minister called this "the year of the vaccine" and declared, "Our goal is to get the management of Covid-19 to a similar place as we do seasonally with the flu."
She went on to explain, "It won't be a disease we will see simply disappear after one round of vaccine across our population. Our goal has to be to put in a place, as we do every year with the flu, a vaccine programme and maintain a degree of normality in the meantime."
That was a major change of tune from the popular elimination policy playlist we listened to though 2020. Rather than "hard and early" and "stamp it out" we were hearing, "It won't simply disappear"; and will be "managed like the flu". Last year any comparisons with flu were scorned.
Jacinda Ardern was probably surprised her new note of realism went largely unnoticed in news reports the next day and has attracted little comment since. Like many a pop idol, she is finding it hard to follow up urgently composed instant hits with more considered work. The Nelson speech was the product of a summer holiday to rest and reflect.
While she and we were basking in the sun, the Northern Hemisphere was enduring a heavy second wave of the virus that had mutated, as they do, as the flu does, when they find their hosts have developed herd immunity or a vaccine.
She must have realised that somehow this year she needs to wind back the popular expectation that this coronavirus can be kept out of New Zealand completely. To be fair, she has tried to explain that elimination did not mean eradication. Elimination meant stopping the spread of the virus whenever it appears, which it will.
To reduce public expectations she needs to reinforce her words at Nelson with her actions. A few days after the speech, a woman in Northland, recently returned from overseas, tested positive for Covid-19 after completing managed isolation. The Government's response was proportionate.
The region was not locked down while the woman's contacts in several towns were traced and tested. Surprisingly it turned out none had caught this highly contagious virus, not even her husband.
But last week, when infection was found in one family in Papatoetoe, all of Auckland was told to stay at home for three days. Shops, cafes and events were closed. Children lost more schooling. The Prime Minister admitted it was an "abundance of caution".
The case was one of new variants, more contagious as mutations usually are. But none of the consequent cluster is in hospital and it seems to be contained. Yet not all epidemiologists wanted Auckland's alert levels lowered and one wanted the city returned to level 2 this week when more cases emerged at Papatoetoe High School.
If the tenor of media reporting and political debate reflects public opinion, which it probably does, we are still a long way from accepting the goals Ardern set out five weeks ago.
The political response to outbreaks reached a new level of madness this week when the National Party advocated the construction of purpose-built managed isolation and quarantine facilities in remote military bases. National was endorsing a suggestion from an epidemiologist, Professor Nick Wilson, who doesn't need to worry unduly about public spending. But for a serious political party to propose such a monumental waste of money only underlines how lost National is at present.
Let's get real. Reporting Wilson's proposal, the Herald mentioned that more than 100,000 people - 113,730 to be precise - had moved through MIQ facilities. The number of community outbreaks has been precisely 11. The chances of Covid-19 escaping managed isolation appear to be even lower than its fatality rate.
Considering how hard it must be to keep healthy active travellers confined to a hotel for two weeks, staff and security services at the hotels have done remarkably well.
With vaccination now underway, it's time to tone down the alarm. The big coronavirus issues should not be more outbreaks, stricter lockdown rules and dedicated MIQ prisons, we should be discussing the urgency of vaccination and its implications for international travel.
Research co-authored by Wilson has found New Zealand had a higher rate of border breaches than Australia. We averaged 1.8 breaches a month, they had 0.7. that on some measures New Zealand had a higher rate of quarantine failures than Australia. Wilson thought our rate an "unacceptably high" risk. I think it encouraging for the travel bubble.
It's not for epidemiologists to decide what risks are acceptable to us anyway. Those are decisions for all of us to make through the people we elect. Last year Ardern was extremely risk-averse but the goals she has set this year are a shot in the arm for life with a controlled virus.