A year ago today, as Hong Kong prepared to see in the new year, officials held an urgent meeting to discuss a “ pneumonia of unknown origin” reported to have infected 27 people in Wuhan. Hongkongers had good reason to be alarmed as the city had been the epicentre of the severe acute respiratory syndrome (Sars) outbreak in 2003 that claimed 299 lives in four traumatic months. Still, few imagined the new virus would spark a global pandemic killing more than 1.8 million worldwide. My heart sank when the news broke. Hong Kong was, at the time, struggling to find a way out of more than six months of civil unrest . The thought of another Sars-like outbreak was almost too much to bear. We knew it would not take long for Covid-19, as it came to be known, to cross the border. The first cases were confirmed three weeks later. Having lived through Sars , I assumed this outbreak would be similar. We would need to endure a stressful first half of the year and by the summer it would all be over. But Covid-19 is a different beast . Less deadly, easier to transmit and much more persistent. Unlike Sars, it has changed our lives. I did not wear a mask in 2003, nor did I work from home. Schools stayed open until anxious parents started keeping their children away. Travel restrictions and social-distancing measures were much less stringent. The Sars experience has helped Hong Kong combat Covid-19. While there was much debate overseas about whether masks should be worn, in Hong Kong most wore them even before the first case was confirmed. We did not dismiss the virus as being like the flu or embark on a misguided attempt to achieve herd immunity. Mandatory Covid-19 testing at 40 buildings in Hong Kong; 54 new cases confirmed The city, with fewer than 9,000 infections and under 150 deaths , has fared better than many other parts of the world. But there is much for the government to reflect on. An initial shortage of masks, delays in imposing tight border restrictions, loopholes in quarantine rules, and a tendency to react rather than anticipate, have all taken their toll. The city is still under threat as the fourth wave of cases spreads. New year celebrations must be restrained with police out in force to stop public gatherings. There will be sadness as we look back on the year, but also hope. Vaccines are on the way and there is a chance of life gradually returning to something like normal. Goodbye 2020, we are glad to see the back of you. Next year, hopefully, we will say goodbye to Covid-19, too.