Microsoft co-founder and philanthropist Bill Gates warned many countries have responded poorly to the outbreak of coronavirus, officially known as COVID-19, and that they should have been more proactive in preparing for an epidemic.
“In those first few months, what were the tests prepared?” Gates said in an interview with the BBC that aired Sunday. “Did countries think through getting their ICU and ventilator capacity up? There will be time for those postmortems. Very few countries are going to get an A grade for that scrambling. And now here we are, we didn’t simulate this, we didn’t practice, so both the health policies and the economic policies, we find ourselves in uncharted territory.”
Gates referred to a TED Talk he gave in 2015, in which he warned that the world was not ready for the next global pandemic.
Following the 2014 outbreak of Ebola, Gates suggested governments and organizations should pour money and resources into vaccine research, health worker training, and scenario planning.
Around the same time, he also authored a paper in a medical journal warning that “we must prepare for future epidemics of diseases that may spread more effectively than Ebola.” He argued there was a “critical need” to strengthen public health systems around the world and to invest in technology and infrastructure for monitoring disease outbreaks and creating laboratory tests for diseases.
“There was the period when I and other health experts were saying that this was the greatest potential downfall the world faced,” Gates told the BBC. “Going back quite a ways to a speech in 2015 and a New England Journal of Medicine article about this specific thing. We definitely will look back and wish we had invested more so that we could quickly have all the diagnostics, drugs, and vaccines. Which was my goal, to get that to happen.”
He mentioned the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI), a foundation for research into infectious diseases co-founded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, but stressed that even his own efforts had not been enough: “We did do CEPI, which helped with some of the vaccine platforms. But not even five percent of what we could have done.”
Gates has previously criticized the U.S. for being slow to instigate a coronavirus shutdown, saying the country did not act fast enough to stop the spread of the disease.
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