Is this it? Is this a pandemic? Epidemiologists tell us we are past the peak of the Omicron outbreak and while the descent will be slower and longer than the ascent, we are over the hump. I have to say, it's an anticlimax.
We have never seen a real pandemic before. We've read of several new diseases in recent years that the World Health Organisation classified as a pandemic but they didn't spread as widely as expected. This was the first truly global scare in our lifetime and here, in remote islands protected by oceans, most of us could only wonder what it was like to have Covid-19 around.
We need wonder no more. Omicron might not be as deadly as previous variants of the virus, and we were fortunate to be double-vaccinated just before it arrived, but it is so much more contagious than previous variants that our experience is now comparable with that of other countries.
With only 74 per cent of us boosted, our voluntary vaccination level is also much the same as other places reached without mandates and are fatality rate is matching theirs too.
So after two years of hunkering down, constantly reading about frightening case numbers overseas and dreadful pressure on their hospitals, we now have a reality check.
Though I haven't had Covid yet – or not that I'm aware – like all of us I know several people and relatives who have had a dose. Some have described it as pretty nasty for a few days.
Their aches, breathing difficulties and general lethargy sound like the heavy colds I used to get before flu vaccines were widely available. There have been nights when I've been so congested I'd sleep on an extra pillow for fear of suffocating.
Those coronaviruses were certainly rough but I wouldn't want the country shut down to prevent them. The time is coming for a serious international review of the wisdom of wrecking so much of the global economy to stop a virus that, from its beginning, was a very selective killer.
Its relatively few fatal victims (relative to infection rates) were mostly people of my generation. For us, everyone stayed at home, tourism and travel industries were devastated, businesses ruined, our grandchildren missed two terms of school. Their parents will be paying down public debt for years. Inflation has returned.
Perhaps conscious of the anticlimax, Jacinda Ardern has begun to remind us at every opportunity her Government's response to the virus has "saved lives". She says it with that emotional catch in her voice she uses when on the defensive.
But how many lives? Not the 80,000 based on modelling in Imperial College, London, that panicked governments everywhere in March, 2020. Not the 14,000 revised estimate we were given when the model was discredited. Ardern now says she saved 5000 lives for the team of five million, one in 1000.
So far we have lost 500, all but 52 since Omicron arrived. When future generations study the trajectory of Covid-19 in New Zealand, they will be struck by the alpine rise of the graph lines for infections, hospital admissions and deaths in 2022. They will wonder what it was like to be living at this moment.
If they ask me, I will I tell them I was thoroughly sick of the subject by then. I'd stopped watching the Covid press conferences and no longer cared which traffic light was in force and what it precisely permitted.
People had begun to make their own rules. Some remained so fearful of the virus they still wouldn't go to restaurants or crowded places, or even let their kids go back to school. Others – the majority of those I knew – were not worried, ignored gathering restrictions and never wore a mask unless they had to.
Future students will not want to know this, it will not accord with what they imagine a pandemic to be, and I completely understand. Reading history, I'd always imagined pandemics were devastating. Those medieval night carts and the guy with the bell, calling, "Bring out your dead." Wasn't that for real?
The Black Death (bubonic plague) in the mid-1300s is reckoned to have killed 30 per cent of Europe's population at the time. The "Spanish" flu a century ago killed 50 million, 2.5 per cent of the world's population. Covid-19 has so far killed 25 million, according to the Economist's measure of "excess deaths" of all causes, 0.3 per cent of today's population.
Clearly a pandemic in epidemiology is not what I imagined it was. But it therefore becomes more important to ask, were lockdowns ever a proportionate response now that we can see what a pandemic really is?