Even as National Party leader Judith Collins was setting out plans to build two new tunnels in Wellington, the light at the end of National's own tunnel was moving further and further into the distance.
Statistics NZ had released the latest unemployment figure. The figure sparked a lot of head scratching.
It showed unemployment had fallen. Yes, fallen over the three-month period in which New Zealand was in lockdown and companies were reporting lay-offs in their thousands.
That drop in the unemployment rate from 4.2 to 4 per cent for the June quarter was of course only the headline figure.
Behind it lay uncertainty about the effect of the wage subsidies, the hours worked, and it countered the rise in those on the unemployment benefit.
But the political impact of that headline figure is obvious.
Since National's polling started crashing through the Covid-19 lockdown phases, National MPs have repeated the mantra that "soon the debate will turn in National's favour".
That meant that soon the economic toll would bite, and people would turn to National again to get them out of it - hopefully.
They are still repeating that mantra five months on as if saying it enough times will make it happen.
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Few doubt that it will eventually happen. But it seems increasingly doubtful it will happen in time for election 2020.
The unemployment figures are a key barometer on which that toll could be judged ahead of the September election.
National needed it to be bad. Instead it is left relying on its tunnels and Collins.
The response to the unemployment figure signalled the approaches Labour and National will campaign on.
National claimed the wage subsidy disguised the reality of unemployment and the end of those subsidies on September 1 would spell disaster.
Labour boasted the numbers were a validation of the effectiveness of the Government's handling of Covid-19 thus far.
This election Labour want voters' minds to be very much in the here and now: a now in which many New Zealanders are tripping about living a normal life.
The scenes and statistics from overseas seem like something out of a sci-fi movie, almost unreal.
Ardern is feted wherever she goes, and thanked for "keeping us safe".
National, however, will want voters' minds to cast to the years ahead – the years former PM Sir John Key spoke of at an economic summit this week, in which he warned the seemingly buoyant economic indicators in areas from retail to property could not and would not last.
For both parties, the big question remains what it was at the start: what next?
Almost every party has a "five-point plan" for the Covid recovery.
None are based on New Zealand being a fortress for eternity. But neither National nor Labour has yet really dared to ask the question about when and how to dismantle the fortress.
There are canaries in cages who dared to sound an alarm about the consequences of remaining a Covid-free hamlet long-term.
In each case, the canary has been promptly executed in the court of public opinion.
The most recent was Key who said thought had to turn to easing open the borders more – say to let in migrant workers, or international students.
He may be right. But he was excoriated for it.
People are not open to any nuances on how and who the border could safely be reopened to. It has become a black-and-white issue.
Polls have shown strong support for the current quarantine provisions, which allow mainly for returning New Zealanders to come back.
The most recent poll was today's NZ Herald Kantar Vote 2020 survey, in which 68 per cent believed the border should remain closed to non-NZ citizens and residents.
Only 29 per cent believed others should be allowed in, even with strict quarantine and no cost to the taxpayer.
Such is the trust now vested in her that the Prime Minister is perhaps the only person who could assure people that letting others in could be done safely – and the Prime Minister is politically hamstrung from doing so by the proximity of the election and the fear a second outbreak could come before then.
It is little wonder no politician is yet brave enough to try to address the question of whether New Zealand can afford to maintain the measures needed to stay Covid-free.
It is a question that involves immense political risk.
Quite simply, the public are not ready to ask it and will not be ready to ask it until they are hurting.
For now many - but not all - New Zealanders are satisfied with where things are at.
Labour is hoping voters do not start asking the "what next" question before September 19.
There seems little chance of that.