There is only one question on all our minds: when will the epidemic be over?
When will we be able to go to the supermarket and not skirt around strangers as though it's the most natural thing in the world?
Will shaking hands ever be normal again?
And that's without even wondering about travelling overseas, or even planning a trip in Australia without wondering whether it will actually happen.
The good news is that the country's most trusted experts think that by October everyday life might start to seem like we used to remember it.
The bad news is that they do not think that this will be the last pandemic.
Or even that the coronavirus will be completely eliminated. It will be an on-going battle with this virus and with unknown ones yet to come.
There is a mountain of uncertainty:
- How effective will vaccines be in stopping infected people infecting others?
- How long will the jabs keep us immune?
- How will Australia cope with incomers from countries where vaccination is rare?
- Can people be reinfected?
Given all these uncertainties, the country's most respected epidemiologists and doctors specialising in infectious diseases do not expect a return to "normality" much before the end of the year.
"I don't think we'll be shaking hands for most of this year," is the assessment of Dr Sanjaya Senanayake, a senior specialist in infectious diseases at Canberra Hospital and at the Australian National University.
Dr Kirsty Short of the University of Queensland reckons life will be pretty well back to normal as next summer progresses.
"It will be something we stop thinking about every day to something we think about only when we travel," she said.
It will be down to very light COVID restrictions, maybe still QR codes in restaurants. It's not going to be something you will consider through your daily life.
Professor Adrian Esterman of the University of South Australia reckons true pre-pandemic normality will take longer.
Vaccination should start in a few weeks. "We are now in a position where we believe we will be able to commence vaccinations in mid-to-late February," Prime Minister Scott Morrison said.
By March, four million Australians could be vaccinated, starting with residents in aged care facilities, people who work with them, "quarantine and border workers" and "frontline health care workers".
"By the end of October, we will hopefully have vaccinated nearly all Australians," Professor Esterman, who works in biostatistics and epidemiology, said.
"Exceptions include pregnant women and those with severe allergic reactions, although these will be considered on a case by case basis. Children under 16 will not receive the vaccines until they are shown to be safe and effective in this age group in further trials."
And, of course, there may be a chunk of the population who simply refuse the jab, though perhaps not as many as we fear.
Professor Esterman thinks "there will always be the anti-vaxxers, although this is unlikely to be a major issue in Australia".
The truth is, though, that we don't know how strong resistance to vaccination actually is. It's true that virtually all young children (95 per cent) get vaccinated with the consent of their parents but there's a financial incentive. The government says that in order to get the Family Tax Benefit, your child must meet immunisation requirements.
The coronavirus vaccines ordered by the Australian government only prevent the symptoms of the disease. They will prevent us getting ill but may not prevent us actually catching the disease itself (but without symptoms) - and so being able to infect others. That information will only emerge as more and more people are vaccinated.
The scientists think the vaccines will stop us infecting others. It's just that the degree of this effectiveness isn't known.
The chief executive of BioNTech which worked with Pfizer said he was "very confident" the vaccine his company developed will reduce transmission of the disease, perhaps by 50 per cent, resulting in a "dramatic" reduction in cases.
"In the next few months, we should know how effective vaccines are at preventing transmission," Dr Kirsty Short, a virologist at the University of Queensland said.
The key milestone will be "herd immunity", that stage when so many people are immune to actually catching the disease (and not just to catching it without getting ill from it) that it fades away. We can become immune either by catching the thing or by having the jab (though, again, how much immunity remains unknown).
If there is no herd immunity, there may still be outbreaks as it spreads among those who have not been vaccinated (either by decision or for medical reasons). These isolated outbreaks will be easier to stamp on if more of us are vaccinated.
It is likely that COVID-19 will end up like influenza with annual jabs modified each year for new variants.Professor Adrian Esterman
Even when most Australians have been vaccinated, basic measures like some social distancing may still be necessary.
Professor Esterman said: "At this stage, we do not know how much disease transmission the vaccines will prevent, or how long immunity lasts, making it difficult to judge if herd immunity can be achieved, and how long it might take.
"We are also starting to see variants of the virus which are more contagious and potentially more lethal. Vaccine manufacturers are already working on adjustments to their vaccines to ensure that they provide protection against any new variants.
Nasty new variants of the coronavirus have emerged in Britain and South Africa and spread from there, including to Australia.
They make the situation much more complicated and much more dangerous because the mutants are able to infect far more people than the original strain could.
A more infectious virus means a higher proportion of the population will have to be vaccinated before "herd immunity" (and a semblance of normal life) can be achieved.
It is widely accepted by the experts that vaccines need to be about 60 per cent effective at preventing people actually catching and being able to transmit the disease for herd immunity to be achievable. That may or may not happen.
"We might never reach herd immunity because of the constant mutation," Professor Esterman said.
That means a constant contest between the mutating virus and the scientists to develop vaccines to tackle each new strain.
"So, looking into the future, it is likely that COVID-19 will end up like influenza with annual jabs modified each year for new variants."
The second aspect of "normality" is international travel. We might achieve what seems like normal life within Australia by the end of the year but poor countries will not be free of infections.
The United States and Britain are starting to vaccinate but they start from a bad position. Already, supply is way behind demand. There's an acrimonious spat between Britain and the European Union about which countries should get enough of the AstraZeneca vaccine.
Professor Esterman reckons that visitors to Australia could be allowed in towards the end of the year providing there is testing of passengers at both ends and a "vaccination certificate".
Talking to the experts can be pretty gloomy: they believe that this epidemic will certainly not be the last.
"I always knew that there would be a pandemic," Dr Kirsty Short of the University of Queensland said.
"That's what's happened through history. Statistically, you have a flu pandemic every 30 years."
She points out that humans have only ever eradicated one disease caused by viruses and that's small pox. Polio was nearly eradicated but wars in Syria and Afghanistan prevented mass vaccination.
Dr Strong says that measles remains because of resistance to vaccination by anti-vaxxers.
Professor Esterman, too, thinks that pandemics are here to stay as part of life (and death) because of the degradation of the environment and the destructive ways of human beings.
Viruses are carried by all kinds of animals, such as bats or pigs or mink (Denmark's entire herd of 17 million mink was slaughtered when it was realised that the animals carried mutated strains of the coronavirus).
"Getting out the crystal ball, it is highly likely we will have another pandemic within the next 10 to 15 years," Professor Esterman said.
"Destruction of the rain forests is bringing humans in closer contact with animals like bats and monkeys.
"Wet markets where people eat or come in contact with exotic animals like pangolin, and intensive farming in China (which allow swine, avian and human flu to mix and create new variants) all increase the chance of new pathogens developing.
"Finally, air travel allows these new infections to travel around the world rapidly."
Despite this, he is not a complete doomster.
"We are now much better placed to be able to handle new epidemics in Australia.
"We have excellent contact tracing facilities in all states and territories, a big stockpile of protective equipment and antivirals. We know how to quickly close our international and state borders.
"The population is aware of the need for social distancing, hand-hygiene and face masks. We have experience of short, sharp lockdowns that work.
"What we don't have and really need are a national contact tracing and quarantine program, and even a national Centre for Communicable Diseases."
All that may come as more and more thought is put into the greatest peace-time problem the world has faced in our lifetimes.