Two and a half years down the pandemic road, New Zealand and the rest of the world are hobbled with Covid-19 in a costly stalemate, with no escape in sight.
There are no more lockdowns, severe health outcomes have improved overall, and people are taking holidays. Yet still lying ahead on this "new normal" path are more ongoing health costs; a medical system under strain; a constantly lurking coronavirus; frequent subvariant-sparked case waves; and daily disruption to life and work.
It's an unbalanced path that involves people shouldering risk and stress, rather than the overall society adapting better to the situation with changes that involve more government direction than there has been this year.
This appears to be normal life as we know it until a vaccine is developed that stops Covid spread.
While the existing Covid vaccines have saved millions of lives globally and kept countless people out of hospital, they are insufficient in tackling the virus on their own. Yet countries have been acting as though they are enough.
The area where they are weakest is combating the virus' point of attack - its ability to invade the body and jump to other hosts.
The Omicron family of strains keeps making advances to spread faster and to reinfect people. It's an octopus with each arm a tag-team of trouble.
And living with widespread infection takes a daily toll on families, workplaces and hospitals.
Some alarming figures on what New Zealand could face over winter were outlined on Thursday with hospitalisations potentially peaking at 1200 beds occupied per day and daily cases in the community reaching 21,000.
Covid-19 Response Minister Dr Ayesha Verrall said the most effective measures for the current outbreak were masks, boosters, widening use of anti-virals and testing.
The Government's moves to improve access to masks and rapid antigen tests appear to be recognition that more needs to be done, and that non-vaccine measures need strengthening. It makes sense that masks, testing, people isolating when sick, and good ventilation should be deployed, especially during a case surge.
There's still a lot of reliance on encouraging and recommending mask use, rather than ensuring they are actuallyworn in schools, for instance, and more consistently at public events. Do most people take any notice if mask use is voluntary? And ventilation upgrades in public places are an under-debated issue. Few cafes make it easy for customers to sit down and eat their food in well-aired safety.
During the briefing about what to expect from the second Omicron wave, director general of health Dr Ashley Bloomfield said people should wear masks in any indoor place outside the home.
He said that correctly wearing an N95-style mask could halve the risk of infection and compared mask use to wearing a seatbelt. Of course, a difference is people can be fined for not wearing a seatbelt and most people accept and abide by rules governing driving.
Bloomfield gave a clear message about reinfection. He said that the BA.5 subvariant - which now makes up 47 per cent of New Zealand's cases - was better at evading immunity than BA.2, although three doses of the vaccine appeared to be as effective against serious illness from BA.5 as for BA.2.
Bloomfield told people who had been infected: "It does not mean you are immune to being reinfected and we are seeing a steady number of reinfections... still around 2 to 3 per cent of our total infections but we are expecting it to increase."
In Australia, the estimated period of when reinfection can happen after infection is being cut from three months to one.
Former White House pandemic adviser Andy Slavitt noted this week that the virus is creating new threats like a production line: even as BA.5 becomes dominant, another mutant, BA2.75, is churning in the background.
"A virus that circulates once/year is one easier for science to keep up with, with annual vaccine boosters. Covid, however, is creating new variants at the speed of the common cold but with more severe consequences," he tweeted.
"Your chances of getting infected [from BA.5] are a direct result of the virus getting around immunity from past infections where the mutations are increasingly different."
There's a lot of information about Covid that has had to be adjusted because of real-world data, Covid's evolution and medical developments.
Some people used to argue that widespread Covid infection would, alongside vaccination, help bring about lasting community immunity against a weakened coronavirus.
Those old debates over herd immunity with Covid-19 have been put to rest by the ever-evolving coronavirus and people trying to put the pandemic behind them.