the World Needs $1 Billion a Year to Prevent Next Pandemic

  • Bill Gates says the world needs $1 billion to fund a team that might prevent the next pandemic.
  • He said the global economy has already lost $14 trillion because of the coronavirus.
  • The next pandemic could be “society-ending” if its death rate is higher than COVID-19’s, he added.

Bill Gates says COVID-19 has given humanity an opportunity to prepare for future pandemics, especially ones that could destabilize society — preparations that he estimates would cost $1 billion a year.

Speaking at the Time 100 Summit on Tuesdayhe called for the world to create a global team of some 3,000 infectious-disease experts to help all countries improve their epidemic responses and equip local scientists with the means to report outbreaks.

He called it a “Global Epidemic Response and Mobilization” team, which would be managed by the World Health Organization, per Time magazine. And he said one of its key responsibilities would be to run outbreak drills for countries to test how prepared they are, according to the outlet.

Gates reportedly said the next pandemic could have a much higher fatality rate and could 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.

The GERM team is an idea he promotes and discusses in his new book, “How to Prevent the Next Pandemic,” published in April.

“You can’t do much if you don’t act quickly,” he said Tuesday. “Pandemics are a global problem, and if one country doesn’t do its part in practicing to detect and contain, then that’s a problem for all the other countries.”

GERM would “really have to take responsibility” for a “dozen or so countries” with limited capabilities, Gates added.

Gates also mentioned some of the measures health experts around the world have been advocating since the pandemic began: upgrading health tech like vaccines and therapeutics, building health systems, and better monitoring diseases around the world.

He estimated all of this would cost about $1 billion a year but called that expense small compared with the toll of a pandemic like that of the coronavirus could inflict on the world.

“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%.”

There have been more than 530.8 million confirmed cases of COVID-19, and 6.3 million deaths caused by the virus, per the World Health Organization. The world had also tallied 14.9 million excess deaths during the pandemic through the end of last year, the organization says. Those deaths are the ones that surpass the number that would be expected compared with averages in recent years.

Gates also criticized the initial US pandemic response and said the Trump administration could’ve prevented needless death by enforcing quarantines guided by medical surveillance.

He said the US in those early days had instead shown “a failure to just practice and even understand which group in the government was involved in large-scale diagnostics.”

“That meant that the disease basically spread unchecked the first few hundred days,” he continued, “and then after that, you’re in very tough shape because of exponential growth.”

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