How many preventable Covid-deaths does it take to justify more time in lockdown?
It's a curly question that wasn't relevant in our Covid-free days, when there was consensus around trying to minimise the number of fatalities and hospitalisations as much as possible.
But it is increasingly important as Fortress Auckland faces weeks 10 and 11 - and maybe longer - in lockdown, and as vaccination coverage creeps higher (89 per cent of eligible Aucklanders have had one dose, and 73 per cent have had two).
And political swords are now clashing.
The National Party is the latest to unsheath. Its Back in Business plan is in part an appeal to the vaccinated who are fed up with waiting for the unvaccinated.
She added vaccination targets of 85 to 90 per cent nationwide, and at least 80 per cent in each DHB region and 70 per cent across each age bracket. But regardless of whether these are met, December 1 is Freedom Day.
Even in the preferred scenario of 85 to 90 per cent coverage of the eligible population by December 1, that would see between 1.3 million and 1.5 million people unvaccinated.
According to Te Pūnaha Matatini modelling, that would amount to between 1557 and 4314 deaths and 878 to 2695 peak hospitalisations a year.
National would point to Covid-19 Response Minister Chris Hipkins' description yesterday that its modelling is sometimes too pessimistic.
It has also sometimes been right on the money.
National would further argue that the number of casualties would be lower because public health measures - including widespread rapid antigen and saliva testing - would be stronger than the moderate ones that are assumed in the model.
The party's Covid-19 response spokesman Chris Bishop even went as far as saying that hospitals wouldn't be overwhelmed, pointing to Victoria and New South Wales.
Last week elective surgery across Victoria was put on hold as the hospitals braced for an influx of cases.
And while non-urgent elective surgery across Greater Sydney has started, their Freedom Day was just over a week ago so it remains to be seen whether hospitals will be overwhelmed - as they previously were.
National also has no target for Māori, who make up most of the active cases in the Delta outbreak, and who would be overrepresented in deaths and hospitalisations if Fortress Auckland were opened.
Vaccination rates for Māori (45 per cent for two doses, 66.5 per cent for one) are well below the national average (66.6 per cent and 85 per cent).
Those rates drop even further for Māori aged 12 to 34 (29.7 per cent for two doses, 55.5 per cent for one dose).
There are about 538,000 Māori in that age group nationwide, which translates to 160,000 unvaccinated young Māori for Delta to hunt down if, or when, the virus leaked out of Auckland.
The consequences of such a leak would also be harsher under National's plan, which includes moving all regions without cases and with 70 per cent double dose coverage to level 1 immediately.
National says it's on the Government to reach the unvaccinated, and they've got ample time - six weeks until December 1 - to do it. This is despite a minimum of five weeks (three weeks between doses, and then two further weeks until full immunisation) to get them fully immunised.
The other side of this cost-benefit ledger is the release of Fortress Auckland, with a suite of measures to supercharge spending, including tax cuts for businesses and all income earners, and targeted spending through vouchers for the tourism and hospitality sectors.
The Greens' line in the sand is to maintain lockdown restrictions until at least 95 per cent of eligible people in vulnerable groups, including Māori, are fully vaccinated.
Under the Te Pūnaha Matatini model, that would lead to 123 deaths and 83 peak hospitalisations a year, but it would also see Fortress Auckland remain until potentially next year.
The same goes for te pati Māori's bottom line of 95 per cent coverage for Māori.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has previously avoided the question of how many deaths are politically acceptable.
She was asked this implicitly when she presented the plan to reopen the borders in August, before the Delta outbreak was detected.
Back then, she said communities could only be exposed to the virus if vaccination rates were high in the regions, among the vulnerable - including Māori - and among the young adults who are most likely to attend super-spreader events.
She and her ministers have repeatedly said they're acutely aware of how pockets of the unvaccinated have the potential to erupt into large clusters, leading to avoidable deaths.
But she also said that Aucklanders can't live week to week, and need to know how Fortress Auckland will open.
She draws her line in the sand tomorrow.