In 2015, Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates gave a prophetic TED Talk in which he warned people that an infectious virus was a greater risk to humanity than nuclear war and said that governments need to be prepared with pandemic response teams and systems.
Now in 2020, amid the Covid-19 pandemic, Gates’ advice is similar. “We should all look at what we have learned from this epidemic, because there will be another epidemic coming,” Gates told CNN’s Jake Tapper on “State of the Union” Sunday.
When asked what the incoming Biden administration could do better to prepare for a pandemic, Gates stressed the need for a global group of infectious disease experts, more testing and better communication with the public.
“We need a team of experts, like 3,000 of them around the world, working on infectious disease,” Gates said. “When there’s a hint of a pandemic, they would, with their full skillsets, move over and focus on that.” (A survey in 2018 found that there were 9,136 infectious disease physicians in the United States.)
In addition to a better team, Gates said that “better surveillance,” like increased testing, would allow the U.S. to be better prepared.
Another improvement would be “allowing the CDC or the experts to give the message to the public, not being afraid of bad news, so that we get people ready,” Gates said. “It’s pretty clear: We’re going to be smarter next time.”
Gates has been an outspoken critic of the U.S. Covid-19 response, including mask-wearing, lack of leadership and vaccine distribution. “The federal government has abdicated on many things during the pandemic,” Gates said during an interview with NBC’s “TODAY” on Dec. 7.
Gates said that he has already spoken to president-elect Joe Biden about the “roadmap” he envisions for future public health crises. “I think our foundation will be part of that dialogue to make sure we don’t blow it again,” he said.
The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has donated $1.75 billion to the global Covid response. “As long as we remember how bad this was,” Gates said the foundation is willing to pay “billions a year to avoid trillions of dollars of disaster.”