Bill Gates, the billionaire philanthropist, admitted last week that the COVID-19 mortality rate was low, saying the world “just got lucky.”
COVID-19, according to Gates, has given humanity the potential to prepare for future pandemics, particularly those that could destabilise civilization as a whole — and it would cost an estimated $1 billion each year to do so.
He asked for a worldwide team of 3,000 infectious disease experts to help all countries improve their epidemic responses and provide local scientists with the tools to report outbreaks at the TIME 100 Summit on Tuesday.
He referred to it as a “Global Epidemic Response and Mobilization” (GERM) team that would be overseen by the World Health Organization. According to t e billionaire, of its main roles would be to undertake epidemic drills for countries to see how prepared they are.
The next pandemic, according to Gates, could have a significantly higher fatality rate and be “society-ending.”
“The chance of another pandemic in the next 20 years, either natural or intentional, I’d say, is over 50%,” he said, per the outlet.
Gates also emphasised some of the things that health professionals around the world have been asking for since the pandemic began, including improving health technology such as vaccinations and treatments, developing health systems, and improved disease monitoring globally.
All this will cost roughly $1 billion every year, according to Gates, but he stressed that it is a small price to pay compared to the cost of a pandemic like Covid-19.
“We’ve lost over $14 trillion so far for this pandemic, and there would be benefits even in non-pandemic years of looking at outbreaks, containing them in a much better way,” he said.
“I have to say, given the toll of this pandemic 20 million dead globally, a million in the US, and it could have been way more fatal. We just got lucky that the death rate per case was like 0.2%,” Gates continued.
According to the WHO, there have been about 530.8 million confirmed Covid-19 cases and 6.3 million fatalities due by the virus. According to the organisation, there have also been 14.9 million excess deaths resulting from the pandemic.
Gates also criticised the Trump administration’s first pandemic reaction, saying it could have averted unnecessary deaths by enforcing quarantines led by medical supervision.
However, the United States demonstrated “a failure to merely conduct and even understand which group in the government was involved in large-scale diagnostics” in those early days, he said.
“That meant that the disease basically spread unchecked the first few hundred days, and then after that, you’re in very tough shape because of exponential growth,” he continued.