Ireland is poised to enter a second calendar year with Covid as an unwelcome house guest. Who'd have guessed back in March that, come 2021, it would be hard to even remember what ordinary life was like?
Did we really used to go on holiday, or celebrate Christmas with our families without having to check the guards weren't about to break down the door? Was there really a time when we had no need to add the word 'wet' to 'pubs'?
In a way, we've come full circle, back to those early days in spring when the first lockdown began.
A new Taoiseach is announcing the restrictions, but it's the same message. One more push. It'll be all over by Christmas. It's just that it's next Christmas now.
People have been remarkably understanding through 2020, and still broadly seem to accept that the Government and Nphet - two separate institutions that are now practically indivisible - are doing the right thing. But how do you possibly maintain consent to this changed, inferior way of life as the darkest days of winter drag on?
People did what was asked of them last spring out of fear. Based on then Taoiseach Leo Varadkar's warning that "one, two or three per cent of half the population" could die of Covid-19, it was being reported that there could be 30,000 deaths by the end of this year. No wonder we were scared.
The novelty of lockdown was bound to wear off as that dreaded curve was flattened, and the health service was not overwhelmed. Instead there was a new message to ensure compliance with the restrictions, to wait for a vaccine to restore normality.
It seemed incredible that one could be brewed up, approved, manufactured, and then rolled out in sufficient numbers in the promised time frame - but, miraculously, it was.
For a while before Christmas, optimism prevailed. The UK now expects to have vaccinated a million people with the first of two doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine by the end of this week. Other countries will follow soon.
The respite from despair proved short-lived, though, as reports of a new strain of the virus, apparently 70pc more transmissible, emerged from Britain. It's been confirmed that this strain has been found in a small number of samples taken in the east of Ireland in recent days. Now another strain, this one traced to South Africa, has been found. Realistically, that's probably reached Ireland as well.
The hope of a few weeks ago now resembles a brief gleam in the darkness, quickly extinguished.
Once again there are warnings of the health service being swamped in the new year as the rise in cases, which in Ireland is increasing faster than in any other European country, translates into hospital admissions and deaths.
So it's back to stoking fear in order to ensure compliance. Even US president-elect Joe Biden's end of year message predicts: "Our darkest days in the battle against Covid are ahead of us, not behind us."
If there's one thing that 2020 has taught us, it's that fear works. Perhaps it even works too well. It gets people to change their normal way of life, but then they can't get rid of the anxiety which living abnormally generates.
Some of the feelings from which people have suffered this year - panic, extreme alertness, emotional numbness, struggling to concentrate, feeling the world isn't safe and that no one can be trusted - are on the official checklist of symptoms for post traumatic stress disorder.
Safety doesn't come without huge cost, in terms of the long-established connection between long term economic damage and worsening mental and physical health.
The Government, with Nphet whispering in its ear, still doesn't seem to be sensitive to the harm its own negativity is causing.
The messages from Cabinet feel contradictory and punitive. It's now reached the absurd position where the country is chartering flights to bring back people who were stranded in the UK when travel was suspended - and then telling the families to whom they're being sent home to make the returnees eat Christmas dinner alone in their rooms. It's like a mass psychology experiment gone wrong.
All this feeds into the sense that the Government and Nphet are taking credit for every success in this battle, while putting the people themselves on the naughty list, blaming us for every failure to eradicate this virus, all just for wanting the semblance of a life.
What we need to get back in 2021 is a sense of hope. The vaccine will provide some of that, but it may take longer than we'd like, and a change of tone is necessary to get us there in one piece mentally.
The first thing that's needed is the reassurance that the people who are in charge of managing the response to the virus know what they're doing.
It's now known that at least one person on at least 20 flights from the UK to Ireland in December subsequently tested positive for Covid. Asked in midweek how many people who've arrived here have later been found to have Covid, authorities were unable to put a figure on it.
Nine months in, this ought to be basic information, but still all the HSE can offer is that they'll be "looking at enhanced surveillance of these passengers coming in" in the days ahead.
Meanwhile, those in authority are cruelly advising older people who are more vulnerable to Covid to just leave the windows open this winter, despite the known dangers of exposure to cold. It should be a trade-off: we must all do our bit, but they in turn must do their jobs.
At a deeper level, the Government needs to give people a sense of the bigger picture beyond scary daily figures for deaths and infections, which are meaningless without the broader context.
As an article in Trends in Microbiology cautioned earlier this year, "only a fraction of the SARS-CoV-2 infected population is detected, confirmed through a laboratory test". While that might seem a cause for alarm, proving that the virus is spreading undetected through the population all the time, it's actually reassuring because it means the ratio of deaths to cases is much smaller than it appears at first glance.
Most people with Covid are unaware they even have it. Only a minority of a minority need medical attention, and only a minority of that minority will be serious enough to require hospitalisation, of which a still smaller minority will tragically lose their lives.
That was true when Leo terrified everyone back in March with inflated predictions of the likely death toll. It's been true every day since, and remains true now as we head to 2021. We can all help our mental health in whatever remains of the Covid crisis by resisting the urge to seek out the worst news every day to confirm our fears.
It's important not to be glib when people are still dying, but we do live in an astonishingly safe and healthy world, and that needs to be shouted from the rooftops, too.