Bill Gates: ‘I wish I had done more’ to warn world about pandemic danger

Report by Tom Huddleston Jr.

In the months since the novel coronavirus started spreading across the world, Bill Gates has been one of the most outspoken public figures with regards to the global response to the pandemic.

However, Gates says he wishes he had “done more” to warn the world about the potential dangers of a global pandemic before coronavirus became one of the biggest public health issues in decades. The pandemic has already killed nearly 290,000 people globally, including more than 80,000 in the U.S.

“I wish I had done more to call attention to the danger,” Gates said in an interview with The Wall Street Journal published Monday.

To be fair, in addition to being a regular presence in television and podcast interviews about the pandemic in recent months, the billionaire and Microsoft co-founder was also on the record with warnings about the grave dangers presented by mass pandemics years before the Covid-19 outbreak.

For instance, Gates gave a TED Talk speech in 2015 warning people that an infectious virus was a greater risk to humanity than nuclear war, and he regularly called for world governments to step up their pandemic response plans.

(And Gates and his wife Melinda even shored up their own pandemic plans. “A number of years ago, we talked about, ‘What if there wasn’t clean water? What if there wasn’t enough food? Where might we go? What might we do as a family?’” Melinda Gates told BBC Radio Live in April. “We had prepared, and had some food in the basement in case needed….”)

Still, Gates now says he wishes he’d been more outspoken to successfully convince world leaders about the potential for a “once-in-a-century pathogen” — which he now believes SARS-CoV-2 to be — to wreak havoc on the world.

“I feel terrible,” he told the Journal. “The whole point of talking about it was that we could take action and minimize the damage.”

Instead, Gates has been unsatisfied with government responses to the pandemic, which he predicted in one recent interview will end up costing the world “tens of trillions of dollars.” The billionaire has been particularly critical of the U.S. response to coronavirus.

In March, Gates said the U.S. “did not act fast enough” in its response to the pandemic to avoid taking extreme measures, such as shutting down businesses and issuing stay-at-home orders to millions of Americans. And, in April, Gates chimed in with his belief that President Donald Trump’s decision to defund the World Health Organization (WHO) is “as dangerous as it sounds.” 

Gates’ critical comments, as well as his years-old comments about the dangers of a global pandemic, have even put him in the cross-hairs of conspiracy theorists — some of whom have made unfounded claims that he’s seeking to profit from the pandemic, or that he knew about coronavirus years before it appeared, or even that he wants to implant the global population with vaccine microchips.

Meanwhile, the billionaire has also put his philanthropic efforts to work to help combat the pandemic’s spread. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has already committed more than $300 million to help fund the development of coronavirus treatments and vaccines.

“I’m putting hundreds of millions of the foundation’s money into this,” Gates told the Journal. “But it’s really a governmental thing, just like the defense budget is there to help with an outbreak of war.”

While Gates says that many of the world leaders he spoke to about the dangers of a large-scale viral outbreak were sympathetic to his argument, he still wishes he’d been able to convince them to act sooner and put strategic plans into place that would accelerate the development of treatments and vaccines in the event of a pandemic.

“I wish the warnings that I and other people gave had led to more coordinated global action,” he said.

Gates added: “My hope now is that leaders around the world, who are responsible for protecting their citizens, will take what has been learned from this tragedy and invest in systems to prevent future outbreaks.”

This article was first published on CNBC Make It https://www.cnbc.com/2020/05/12/bill-gates-wishes-hed-done-more-to-warn-about-pandemic-danger.html?forYou=true and is republished with its permission.

For more coverage on COVID-19 visit: https://www.cnbcafrica.com/covid-19/

Related Content

Ouch! How Tiger Brands got its fingers burnt in Nigeria for the second time in a decade

Food giant Tiger Brands has passed on paying a dividend as it faces job losses and cost-cutting in its operations after a bruising first half trading on the cusp of COVID-19.

Tiger Brands CEO on results & how the company is responding to COVID-19 shocks

Food producer Tiger Brands reported a 35 per cent fall in half-year headline earnings and has deferred its interim dividend due to uncertainty by the Covid-19 outbreak. The group expects Covid-19 to unfold significant challenges to the business in the near future. Tiger Brands CEO, Noel Doyle joins CNBC Africa for more.

Netcare CEO on the impact of COVID-19 lock-down & medical sector readiness for virus peak

Hospital group Netcare saw a plunge in its hospital admissions in March and April with last month’s figures falling by 49.5 per cent. However, the group has noted that the easing of lock-down restrictions in May has seen a slight uptick in hospital patients. The group has scrapped its interim dividend and has committed R150 million to prepare its ICU and high care facilities to deal with Covid-19 cases. Dr Richard Friedman, CEO, Netcare joins CNBC Africa for more.

Moody’s changes Namibia’s rating from stable to negative

Nigeria’s GDP data and MPC announcement is expected later this week and Moody’s has changed the outlook on Namibia’s sovereign rating to negative from stable as it sites economic and financial pressure on Namibia amid the Covid-19 crisis. Ridle Markus, Africa Strategist at Absa Corporate and Investment Banking joins CNBC Africa for more.

Subscribe to our newsletter

Sign up for free newsletters and get more CNBC AFRICA delivered to your inbox

More from CNBC Africa

What Happens To Unspent Gift Cards?

Americans love gift cards. The plastic cash substitute has been the most popular holiday item on shoppers’ lists for 13 years in a row, as of 2007. In 2019 alone, U.S. consumers spent close to $98 billion on gift cards from brands like Starbucks, A

Curro opens its online doors to educate learners during COVID-19

Many parents are anxious about sending their kids back to school next week with the risk of Covid-19 infections in the classrooms quite high. Similarly, the risk of compromising the academic year by keeping kids at home until a treatment or cure is found is equally as high. Private school group Curro has launched an online schooling platform to help parents keep their kids educated and safe. Andries Greyling, CEO of Curro joins CNBC Africa for more.

Covid-19: WFP, YouTube partner to tackle food insecurity in Africa

Covid-19 disruptions to global supply chains have raised the alarm around food insecurity in Africa, with millions of people at risk of plunging further into poverty. To help the continent feed itself throughout the crisis streaming platform YouTube has partnered with the World Food Programme and UNICEF to raise funding. That’s as Africa works on a sustainable plan for food production, which includes reducing its reliance on food imports. Alex Okosi, Managing Director for Emerging Markets in Europe, the Middle East and Africa at YouTube joins CNBC Africa for more.

Africa’s unified & coordinated response to COVID-19: A public-private sector partnership

On this CNBC Africa special broadcast on Africa Day we hear from three influential and strident voices of the continent about how they feel Africa can come up with a unified and coordinated response to the pandemic – on both the private and public sector....

Trending Now

Protecting Africa’s progress during the COVID-19 pandemic

As of the 24th of May, Africa had a total of 107,412 confirmed Covid-19 cases, with 42,626 recoveries and 3,246 deaths. CNBC Africa’s Kenneth Igbomor explores ways to protect Africa’s progress during the Covid-19 pandemic with Dr.Vera Songwe, United Nations Under-Secretary-General and Executive Secretary of the Economic Commission for Africa, Dr. John Nkengasong, Director of the Africa Centre for Disease Control & Prevention and Edwin Ikhuoria, Africa Executive Director of the One Campaign....

How Africa can corner a tenth of the world battery metals market – if being brave favours Fortune!

“I can say, do we have a good business: yes. Are we in distress? No. We have a lot of work to do things are going to get worse before they get better.”

African artists donate their vocals to support COVID-19

While big business has used its deep pockets to contribute towards Covid-19 related aid, musicians are using their voices. Artists from across the continent have teamed up to create a song to help governments drive important messaging around Covid-19 and to encourage citizens to play their part in limiting the spread of the virus. Two of the artists on the song, South African rapper Riky Rick and Zimbabwean born Sha Sha join CNBC Africa for more....

How Covid-19 is shaping Africa’s prospects

This time last year Africa was celebrating the milestone that free trade on the continent would soon be a reality. Prior to Covid-19, the free trade Africa deal was due to be implemented on the 1st of July. Africa Day this year is, however, less joyful as the continent grapples with the prospect of deep recession and in some parts, depression with the coronavirus health crisis fast muted into an economic and financial one. Joining CNBC Africa to discuss Africa’s prospects in 2020 is Alexander Forbes Chief Economist, Isaah Mhlanga and Head of Strategic Slients, Lesiba Mothata.
- Advertisement -