The re-emergence of Sars in Singapore confirms what the world has been fearing since the last patients left hospital and the global outbreak was declared over. The deadly disease has returned. Those fears will be particularly strong in Hong Kong and the mainland, having borne the brunt of the last devastating outbreak. But the early indications are that there is no cause for undue alarm. The case confirmed in Singapore may turn out to be a one-off. The single victim is making a good recovery, has been isolated and those who have been in contact with him are being tracked down. There is, as yet, no evidence of the virus having spread, although it remains worrying that how the victim acquired the virus remains a mystery. But while the case need not give rise to fears of another major outbreak, it does serve as a timely reminder of the need to be vigilant and well prepared. Hong Kong reacted swiftly, stepping up health checks at the airport. Hospitals have been put on alert and health officials have declared that everything possible has been done to make our city better prepared for the re-emergence of Sars. Some things will certainly be different next time. We have a much better understanding of the nature of the disease and the terrible risks it poses. The chances of being caught unawares are much reduced as a result. But much remains unknown, no vaccine has yet been developed and there is no guaranteed cure. A new outbreak will therefore test to the limit the measures we have introduced in a bid to stop the disease spreading. The main battleground will, once again, be the hospitals. Beating the disease is likely to depend on preventing them from becoming places where the disease spreads. Alarming flaws in our hospital system were exposed in the last battle against Sars. There is now a need for the international panel of experts commissioned to probe the saga to release its findings as soon as possible so its advice can be adopted to strengthen the system's ability to deal with the deadly disease. Likewise, work currently underway to establish more than 1,200 isolation beds will also have to be expedited. Outside of the hospitals, the focus will be on avoiding the rapid spread of the virus in our housing estates, such as that which caused 42 deaths at Amoy Gardens. It is encouraging that the government's Team Clean has put forward radical proposals which are gradually being implemented, and that the community has a much better understanding of the need to pay attention to hygiene. Another area in which progress has been made is in communication between Hong Kong and Guangdong. This week, it was agreed that each side will provide the other with information on outbreaks of 28 infectious diseases. However, the requirement that Hong Kong keep the information confidential could leave the government in an invidious position. If it learns of an outbreak in Shenzhen, for example, can it not alert the public? The mainland has every right to expect its secrecy laws to be respected. But as it learned during the first Sars outbreak, there are times when making information public is of crucial importance. Lives could depend on it. The agreement between Hong Kong and Guangdong should therefore be discussed further. The mainland won praise for its war against Sars, and will no doubt react in similar resolute fashion should the disease reappear. It too, has taken precautionary steps and is setting up trial surveillance schemes to ensure effective monitoring of the situation. We have not had long to prepare for the return of Sars. But if lessons have really been learned, the impact of a new outbreak should be greatly reduced.