Bill Gates warns that after COVID-19, the next disaster to strike will likely be related to either climate change, or bio-terrorism. In an interview with the YouTube channel Veritaserum, Gates talked about what he believes could come next, after the pandemic.
“If anything kills over 10 million people in the next few decades, it's most likely to be a highly infectious virus rather than a war.” These were the words of Bill Gates, philanthropist and co-founder and former CEO of Microsoft, in 2015. Bill, in his TED talk, explained the world was not prepared for the next epidemic. "The failure to prepare could allow the next epidemic to be dramatically more devastating than Ebola," he had said then. Fast-forward to 2021, the global novel coronavirus pandemic has infected a total of 154 million people and claimed 3.22 million lives.
It has been over a year since the onset of the pandemic, but there's no end in sight as various variants — more dangerous than the earlier ones — of the virus are already there infecting and claiming lives.
In February 2021, Veritaserum host Derek Alexander got to interview Bill Gates and took him back to his 2015 prediction, which has come true. Gates was asked how he was so prescient in his prediction and just why enough wasn't done already to be prepared for something as dangerous and deadly as COVID-19.
Bill Gates said that there were small earthquakes all the time or the history of fire, war or hurricanes, but these pandemics come so irregularly that people are “lulled into a sense of security”. It's almost as if it won't come for the next few years, so “why should we put our money into that”, he added. "This one (COVID-19 pandemic) will help us understand that it has to be a priority."
Alexander then asked Bill Gates that if there isn't another pandemic for the next 100 years, "What's the next disaster, what's that we are not prepared for?"
"Well, I can point out two — one is climate change. Every year, there would be a death toll — even greater than we have had this pandemic," Bill Gates said.
However, it's the second thing, according to Bill, that people don't discuss often — bio-terrorism. "Somebody who wants to cause damage could engineer a virus so that the cost, the chance of running into this is more than that of naturally-caused epidemics such as the current one," he said.
Alexander next asked if COVID-19 could be the last global pandemic. Bill Gates said there will be more pandemics. "The ways the humans interact with other species, these viruses are coming across the species barriers whether it's bats or monkeys," he said.
Asked if it's possible to prepare for these scenarios, Gates said, "We could increase our preparedness so that we don't have the death toll anyway near what we have today."
What are the key elements the world didn't have but should have for these viruses to "nip in the bud?"
Gates divided his suggestions into two categories — the field-based activity and the R&D activity and the investment, he says, should be somewhat equal in both sections.
"In R&D, we need to mature mRNA so that we can have faster and have factories all over the world... There's a lot that could go into therapeutics, including antibodies," he said. "On diagnostics, having the ability to give 10 million PCR tests every day; in terms of field, we need a lot of diagnostic machines."
We need teams of epidemiologists, so the investment is equal between R&D and field-based activity, he said.