Thankfully, the number of deaths related to the Covid-19 virus has fallen to a low level of a handful a day and we can begin to see the end of the pandemic.
One of the first warnings of a new virus came from QUB virology researcher Connor Bamford on January 13. Four months later, we know that hundreds have died and that the economy has suffered more damage than at any time since the Second World War.
There has been considerable interest in differences in outcomes from the Covid-19 pandemic between Northern Ireland and the Republic.
The south was quicker to shut down large parts of its economy and has undertaken more testing, even if its approach on care homes has been heavily criticised by the head of Nursing Homes Ireland.
Some have concluded that there is a reasonable expectation that these actions in the south might have resulted in fewer Covid-19-related deaths, but it is necessary to establish whether this is true.
Even if there are differences, they are small. Much larger differences exist elsewhere. So, why focus on minor differences within Ireland when there are hundredfold differences in Covid-19 deaths between this island and countries like New Zealand, Singapore and Hong Kong, each with populations similar in size to Ireland?
The focus on cross-border differences partly reflects a genuine attempt to inform health policy, but it is hard to suppress the thought that the motivation may also be political.
Sigmund Freud referred to the "narcissism of small differences", when people are more interested in minor contrasts with neighbours than with the larger issues in life, but here we also have an ongoing political battle over Irish unity.
Sinn Fein led the way in politicising the pandemic, but later pulled back, saying that their only interest was in saving lives, a sentiment not always associated with the party in the past.
Senior health officials on both sides of the border say that there are few differences in outcomes north and south. They also dismiss suggestions that high coronavirus-related deaths in southern border counties are due to proximity to Northern Ireland.
The latter suggestion, initially made by the highly experienced public health expert Dr Gabriel Scally in relation to Cavan, was always unlikely, given the very low number of Covid-19 cases in neighbouring Fermanagh.
The wider issue of north-south contrasts has been kept alive by retired Queen's University sociology professor Mike Tomlinson, who has written in several articles and papers and stated on national ITV news that death rates from Covid-19 are 50% higher in Northern Ireland compared with south of the border.
No one much, in politics or in health services, north or south, appears to be taking this seriously, but given the wide publicity it has attracted, it is worth going over the facts.
The first thing to say is that the south has more deaths confirmed by tests than the north.
The latest available comparative figures (up to May 22) show that the south had 299 confirmed deaths per million people, while the north had 268. For comparison, New Zealand and Singapore each had only four per million people.
It can be argued that the number of deaths confirmed by testing depends on the number of people tested. Since the south has tested more, it may record more confirmed deaths.
This may be the case, although we should note that Northern Ireland's testing has been focussed on hospitals, where most of the deaths occur.
Some deaths which did not involve a test are, nevertheless, suspected of being due to Covid-19. In these cases, doctors, usually GPs, judged that Covid-19 may have been a cause without a test. Since Covid-19 is a notifiable disease, this appeared on the death certificate.
The number of deaths suspected of being Covid-19-related, but without a positive test, is higher in Northern Ireland than in the south.
In the north, there had been 213 such deaths by May 22, compared with 134 in the south.
If we add both the confirmed and the suspected deaths together, then Northern Ireland has a higher Covid-19-related death rate by around 14% on a per-head basis.
The north-south difference in the number of suspected but unconfirmed deaths may again reflect the intensity of testing.
If more of the Covid-19-related deaths were included in the south's more intensive testing regime, then fewer may have been left untested than in the north.
Equally, it could be due to north-south differences in practice by GPs, who have to make a judgment in cases where there has been no test.
This is not the end of the story. All over Europe, including in Northern Ireland, there are excess deaths which no one has linked to Covid-19. Excess deaths are those occurring in 2020, from any cause, above and beyond the average for previous years.
Allowing for the fact that last winter was mild and had fewer deaths than in previous years, we can calculate that there were 934 excess deaths in Northern Ireland up to May 8, of which under two-thirds had been connected in any way with Covid-19.
The remaining "unexplained" deaths might include Covid-19-related deaths which had not been diagnosed, but also deaths from other causes due to reduced hospital capacity, or a reluctance of patients to attend hospital despite heart, stroke, diabetes, or other conditions.
This issue of unexplained deaths is clearly very serious. Whether it is more serious in Northern Ireland than in the south will not be known for a long time.
Unlike Northern Ireland, where the Northern Ireland Statistics and Research Agency reports all death numbers each week and identifies excess deaths, the Central Statistical Office in Dublin is unable to do this except with very long time-lags.
Its currently unpublished weekly figures indicate that deaths in recent weeks are up to a third lower than last year.
Since this cannot be correct, the CSO concludes that the usual long lags in reporting deaths in the Republic must have got even longer during the pandemic.
Because official figures are unavailable, Professor Tomlinson has relied on an unofficial undertakers' website in the Republic which counts death notices in the southern Press. It is these figures which underpin his claim that Covid-19 death rates are 50% higher in the north. He says that academic research in previous years has found this website to be a good guide to total fatalities.
However, he does not consider the possibility that the unusual circumstances of the pandemic, with few funerals, may have undermined the accuracy of the figures in 2020.
The best conclusion is that we will not know for many months, or even longer, whether the north has more or fewer excess deaths than the south.
In the meantime, let's concentrate on the more important issue of why both Northern Ireland and the Republic have a hundred times more deaths than some other countries.
Dr Graham Gudgin is research associate at the Centre for Business Research, University of Cambridge, and chief economic advisor at Policy Exchange. He was special advisor to the First Minister of Northern Ireland from 1998 to 2002