Even a few months ago, we didn’t even think of something that would keep us locked in our house. Surprisingly, an American philanthropist and Co-founder of Microsoft Corporation, Bill Gates warned the world long ago about such a disaster.

Listening to the whole speech at the 2015 TED conference, it may seem that Bill Gates knew about coronavirus five years ago!

After the Ebola epidemic, Bill predicted that millions of people could die in a virus outbreak, not a nuclear war. With more than 200,000 death cases, his prediction couldn’t hit us harder. 

Unlike the 1918 Spanish Flu and Ebola crisis, Bill feared that the world may face a crisis which can be air-borne, very contagious and the carrier may not be symptomatic to be contained. 

In his words,  “You can have a virus where people feel well enough while they’re infectious that they get on a plane, or they go to a market,”.  

To our surprise, this is exactly what happened in the case of COVID-19!

Photo Source: Bill Gates Facebook Page

How to build a really good response system

Bill then discussed how we can build a better preventive system, using technology like mobile phones and satellite maps to see where people are and where they’re moving. Already, we have seen that many countries, including China, have been successful in using technology to detect and contain the spread of the virus.

Besides, he said, “We have advanced biotechnology that can dramatically change the turnaround time to look at a pathogen and be able to make drugs and vaccines that fit for that pathogen.’’ “We can have tools, but those tools need to be put into an overall global health system. And, we need preparedness”, he continued.   

Bill argued that just as NATO troops are ready for war, we must also be prepared to deal with the virus.

Bill suggested that we need the following steps to deal with the next epidemic:

  • Firstly, we need strong healthcare systems in poor and vulnerable countries. Otherwise, it could easily spread all over the world.
  • Secondly, we need a medical reserve corps: lots of people who’ve got the training and background who are ready to offer their expertise in the hour of need.
  • Thirdly, we need to create a bridge between the medical and military experts so that they can provide logistics support and secure the affected areas.
  • Fourthly, we need to do simulations, germ games, instead of war games, so that we can find out where the holes are.
  • Finally, we need to invest in advanced R&D, especially in areas of vaccines and diagnostics. 

Bill Gates thought that the Ebola epidemic should be taken as an early warning and a wake-up call, to get ready. 

“If we start now, we can be ready for the next epidemic,’’ he said. Unfortunately, we didn’t pay enough heed to the warnings of this great visionary. 

Do you think we will listen to his suggestions now that we have witnessed the COVID-19 pandemic? 

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