The Co-Chair of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Bill Gates has reminded the world that he warned a pandemic was on the horizon, and that the world weren’t ready for it.
The Co-Chair made this known during his keynote speech at the TED2022 conference on Tuesday in in Vancouver, Canada with references to his 2015 talk where he gave the warning.
He said he hoped the current COVID-19 crisis would spur his audience at TED2022 in Vancouver to pay closer attention to his advice about how to prevent another pandemic wreaking similar havoc on the society.
His words: “When I was on this stage in 2015, I was one of many people who said we weren’t ready and we needed to get ready. We didn’t,” Gates said. “The speech actually was watched by a lot of people, but 90% of the views were after it was too late.”
Recall that in the 2015 talk, Gates said the world was “not ready for the next epidemic” and viruses pose the “greatest risk of global catastrophe” compared to other threats to humanity. A YouTube video of his 2015 presentation at TED Talks has garnered more than 36 million views so far.
Gates made this speech in 2015, a year after the world avoided what everyone thought was a horrific global virus, Ebola. The virus was contained through the sacrifice and endless work by thousands of selfless health workers. Africa also has good luck to thank.
“If anything kills over 10 million people over the next few decades, it’s most likely to be a highly infectious virus rather than a war. Not missiles, but microbes,” Gates said at the time.
According to Insider, the COVID-19 pandemic has caused more than 6 million deaths worldwide, which is close to Gates’ projected 10m deaths. The US has experienced the most deaths out of any nation at nearly 1 million.
Though Gates urged governments to invest in healthcare and medicine technology in his 2015 talk, US cut funding to virus prevention agencies shortly after. The Trump administration shut down the entire global-health-security unit of the National Security Council and eliminated the US government’s $30 million Complex Crises Fund.
“COVID, it’s hard to overstate how awful it’s been,” Gates told his TED2022 audience. “It’s increased the health inequities between the rich and the poor. Your survival depended partly on your income, your race, the neighborhood you lived in.”
Later in the talk, Gates said rich countries should come together to implement systems that would help prevent the next large scale pandemic while the tragedy of COVID-19 is still fresh in our memory. So far, he said, world leaders have taken less action than he expected.
“After World War II, we did a lot, we created the United Nations,” Gates said. “So far, the action has been less than I would’ve expected. I’d be stunned if we don’t go forward with something pretty close to what I’m laying out.”