Hong Kong’s emergence from the pandemic has raised hopes for the future. There is an understandable desire to look ahead. But the impact of Covid-19 on the city must not be forgotten. Lessons need to be learned. Leading microbiologist and government adviser Professor Yuen Kwok-yung is among those calling for an inquiry into the city’s handling of the pandemic. Yuen is a veteran of the fight against severe acute respiratory syndrome (Sars), which claimed 299 lives in Hong Kong in 2003. A Legislative Council report the following year highlighted numerous failings in the city’s response to Sars, prompting the health secretary to resign. An independent probe into the handling of Covid-19 is needed. But it should not be about apportioning blame. The aim must be to identify weaknesses, learn from mistakes and strengthen the city’s defences. The Sars experience led to changes. The Centre for Health Protection was established, 1,400 hospital isolation beds installed and cross-border surveillance stepped up. These measures helped Hong Kong in its initial response to Covid-19. The new disease was made notifiable even before the city recorded its first case. Unlike with Sars, the government quickly began daily briefings to the media. Top adviser urges review of Hong Kong’s handling of Covid only after pandemic But this was just the beginning. Early issues included a shortage of masks and delays in closing the border with the mainland. But the biggest concerns arose during last year’s “fifth wave” of cases, when the health system was overwhelmed. The low vaccination rate among the elderly, the rapid spread of the virus in care homes and the chronic overloading of hospitals all contributed to the terrible death toll and require investigation. The allocation of resources and role of the private health sector also deserve attention. Hospitals must never face such a crisis again. Consideration is also needed of the wider impact of the Covid-19 response on the community, including whether border controls and social-distancing measures went too far, for too long. Hong Kong people showed patience, adaptability and resilience. They learned from the Sars experience and deserve credit. The timing and form of any inquiry is open to debate. Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor suggested, when still chief executive last year, that a commission of inquiry might be needed, with “extensive and intensive” scope. Covid-19 was a new disease. It took the world time to respond. Many mistakes were made. But with the constant threat of new viruses, there is no room for complacency. Yuen was among experts who warned in 2018 that Hong Kong needed to be better prepared for the next outbreak of an infectious disease. Reflecting on Sars, he said history always repeats itself. He was right. If another deadly virus strikes, the city must be ready for it.