There is a saying that that a week is a long time in politics but for Health Minister Robin Swann the last year must have seemed like an eternity. He has been the political figurehead in the fight against the coronavirus pandemic and, at times, was a lightning rod for public disquiet over how the Executive was handling matters.
But even his sternest critics must accept that he has conducted himself well during the past year or so and has stuck by his pledge to let science dictate how the pandemic should be tackled.
Mr Swann attracted criticism for his early prediction that the virus could cause 15,000 deaths in a worst case scenario but at that stage no one was sure if the inexorable rise in the death toll could be halted.
But yesterday he was in a much more positive mood, suggesting that an easing of restrictions and the creation of a timetable for change could happen. He pinpointed the reopening of caravan parks, barbers and hairdressers and non-essential retail as possibilities in the very near future.
Those were words that many never thought they would hear since the current lockdown was imposed on December 26. The Minister said the science was tipping in favour of easing restrictions and added a telling phrase - Covid fatigue risks itself mutating into Covid despair. He is right to point out that lockdown cannot continue for ever and that public frustration with the restrictions risks turning into disobedience.
But as he and the Chief Medical Officer Dr Michael McBride pointed out, an easing of restrictions will not be a licence for people to disobey the fundamental rules of keeping their distance, washing hands, wearing masks and meeting others outside where transmission of the virus is less likely.
There are indications that transmission levels have risen - possibly as a result of Easter holidays - and the statistics will continue to be strictly monitored to avoid any new surges.
Mr Swann and Dr McBride have been consistent in their advice and it is particular credit to the Minister that he has sometimes had to give voice to unpopular decisions. He was at it earlier this week when he urged fellow MLAs and Ministers not to turn the required reform of the NHS into a political football for political advantage.
The voters of North Antrim are fortunate to have someone of his independent mindset to represent them.
Perhaps the First and Deputy First Ministers should let him announce any easing of restrictions today given that his work has helped bring us to this stage.