Bill Gates saw the COVID-19 outbreak coming — and he knew we weren’t prepared for it.
The Microsoft co-founder on multiple occasions over the past decade talked about the potential for something like the novel coronavirus that has infected nearly 200,000 worldwide and killed almost 8,000 people.
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His TED Talk from 2015 titled “The next outbreak? We’re not ready” is being shared widely online in recent weeks given the impact of COVID-19 around the world.
“If anything kills over 10 million people in the next few decades, it’s likely to be a highly infectious virus rather than a war,” Gates said during the Ted Talk. “Not missiles, but microbes.”
Two years later, he said the same thing at an event in Davos.
“It’s pretty surprising how little preparedness there is for it,” Gates said in 2017.
Speaking at the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) annual meeting in Seattle last month, Gates said the impact of COVID-19 could be “very, very dramatic,” particularly if it spreads to areas like sub-Saharan Africa and Southern Asia.
“This is a huge challenge,” Gates said on Feb. 14. “We’ve always known that the potential for either a naturally caused or intentionally caused pandemic is one of the few things that could disrupt health systems, economies and cause more than 10 million excess deaths.”
Gates pointed to advances in molecular diagnostic tools as one promising safeguard against such outbreaks.
“We’re on the cusp, in science, of being able to make good tools to do the diagnosis, provide vaccines to provide therapeutics including antivirals,” he said.
The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation committed $100 million to fighting coronavirus, as part of its broader efforts in global health.
The Gates Foundation is also reportedly exploring the idea of supplying at-home testing kits for the novel coronavirus in Seattle, the initial epicenter of the U.S. outbreak that has now spread across the country. It also launched a $125 million COVID-19 Therapeutics Accelerator and gave $5 million to help public health agencies in the Seattle area enhance their capacity to detect the virus.
Head here to see all the foundation’s COVID-19-related work.