ALMOST three years after COVID-19 exploded into global consciousness, there is little left in most of our lives of the frantic medical authoritarianism that ruled the roost as authorities everywhere tried to grapple with a clearly deadly unknown.
Australia's public health response was to hit hard and fast. Most of us - the Newcastle Herald included - endorsed the official response, and our case numbers remained well below what many had been predicting.
Throughout the months of hard suppression, case numbers stayed low, but the financial cost and emotional toll of mandatory masks and lockdowns could not be maintained forever.
The bulk of Australia's cases arrived this year, as the draconian measures were wound back.
Nationally, cases peaked in mid January, before falling steadily in a saw-tooth decline until September, from where they have plateaued at somewhere above 35,000 cases a week. Until now.
On Thursday, NSW chief medical officer Kerry Chant warned that a new wave of infections was on its way, with a series of new variants that could yet put the country and its public health infrastructure to the test.
Globally, the COVID map has changed considerably since Joe Biden replaced Donald Trump as President of the United States.
The analysts' warning - "correlation is not causation" - applies as to why, but for much of the time since COVID arrived, the US had been at the top of the statistics, and for all the wrong reasons.
The public figures are not absolutes.
In many once numbers-obsessed countries, Australia included, reporting of COVID-19 is no longer mandatory, meaning the real rates of infection may be considerably higher, even if most of the missed cases are asymptomatic.
Yesterday, the international Top 10 was Germany, France, the US, Japan, South Korea, Italy, Russia, Austria and Greece. Australia was in 17th spot.
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- COVID cruise ship to dock in Tasmania
- List of Hunter COVID exposure sites
On Thursday, Melbourne's Doherty Institute said Omicron had "splintered into multiple sub-variants, including "recombinant" forms, where two sub-variants swap genetic material.
The institute urges up-to-date boosters as the best protection, but the latest figures show just 72 per cent of over-16s have had a third shot, and 25 per cent a fourth.
Nobody expects a return to pandemic-height panic, but COVID is not the flu, and the restrictions may yet return.
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