Bill Gates predicted five years ago at a TED lecture that humanity is not prepared for the outbreak of another epidemic. Yesterday he did estimate on Reddit that countries that take the right measures can start the economic restart within two to three months. An optimistic answer to the forecast that we should continue social distancing for another year and a half.
If you listen to the TED lecture by Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates in March 2015 today, you will still feel a bit of a chill. “As a child, a nuclear war was the disaster we were most concerned about,” Gates started talking. “Today it is no longer the greatest risk of a global disaster. If there is one thing that will take more than ten million lives in the coming decades, it is more than likely a highly contagious virus rather than a war. Not missiles, but microbes. ”
Gates pointed an accusing finger at governments that had not invested enough to stop an epidemic. His analysis was based on the 2014 Ebola outbreak in West Africa and the failing strategy to tackle that epidemic.
Today, the world is struggling with the Covid-19 virus, which is very contagious and therefore spreads at lightning speed. When Ebola patients are contagious, they are already so sick that they can barely get out of bed and thus infect fewer people. This is completely different with the new coronavirus: everything indicates that it can be spread by someone who is infected, but has no symptoms. That was exactly what Bill Gates predicted in 2015: “The next virus can make people feel good enough, while they are contagious, to get on a plane or go to a market.”
Gates compared the logistical preparations for such a pandemic with those for a war. “We also need a robust health system in poor countries, including to quickly detect an outbreak,” said Gates. “We need medical reservists. And we need to be able to link these medics to the military to make use of the military experience in logistics and securing areas. ” Gates also already quoted the worldwide cost tag and estimated that at $ 3 trillion (2.8 trillion euros). Nothing compared to the possible toll on human lives, which Gates says could run into the millions.
Striking: Gates called back then not to panic. “We don’t have to hoard canned food or spaghetti in our basement.” A message that is still very difficult to get to a part of the population today. “But we have to hurry,” Gates concluded. “If we start now, we can be ready for another epidemic.”
Yesterday, the former Microsoft boss, who is now a full-time philanthropist, answered a question session on Reddit. “We must remain calm, even if this situation is unseen,” he tried to reassure them. A report from Imperial College London had previously warned that 2 million Americans could die if we don’t get the virus under control, and that social distancing rules should continue for 18 months until a vaccine is found. But according to Gates, the parameters of that study were estimated too negatively. He referred to China, where the lockdown seems to be working and has resulted in fewer corona cases for a few days.
If a country “does well” on two fronts – testing people and introducing an efficient lockdown with social distancing – “there should be very few cases within six to 10 weeks and that country can be opened up again” said Gates. According to him, economic reconstruction can therefore start after two to three months, but then the measures must be strictly followed, also in our country. The philanthropist was concerned about developing countries, which cannot do social distancing in the same way and have less reception capacity in hospitals.