Why Bill Gates says Covid’s worst could still be ahead

After more than two years of Covid-19, many people are lowering their guard. But the pandemic is not over yet, and Bill Gates warns that the worst is yet to come.

“We still run the risk of this pandemic generating a variant that would be even more transmissive and even more deadly,” Microsoft billionaire co-founder and public health advocate told the Financial Times on Sunday. “It’s not likely, I don’t want to be a voice of sadness, but it’s far above a 5% risk of this pandemic, we haven’t even seen the worst of it.”

New Covid cases, driven by the BA.2 subvariant of the Covid omicron strain, are currently growing in the U.S.: The seven-day average of new daily cases in the United States is up to 54,429 on Sunday, according to University data Johns Hopkins. This is up 9% from the previous week, and cases grew in 39 states during that time period.

But Covid-related deaths are declining, and White House Tsar Dr. Ashish Jha said last month that he is “not too worried right now” about BA.2. Rather, its spread is more of a reminder that Covid is still on the lookout, and as Gates points out, the virus could mutate again, leading to a strain of greater concern.

For Gates, one lesson from the Covid pandemic so far is that preventive planning and protective measures could help the world better manage future pandemics. This is the basic concept of his forthcoming book, “How to Prevent the Next Pandemic,” which will be published later this year.

One proposal, he says, is for the World Health Organization to launch a global surveillance team of experts who can quickly detect new health threats around the world and coordinate quickly with global governments to prevent future diseases become pandemics.

Gates, who described his task force as a “Global Epidemic Response and Mobilization” (GERM) initiative, told the Financial Times that the idea would require significant financial investment by the WHO and its member countries in order to to create a global team of experts. including epidemiologists and virologists, and give them the tools they need to proactively identify and contain future outbreaks.

It’s a plan Gates previously presented at the 2022 TED conference in April, where he noted that the WHO is likely to spend more than $ 1 billion a year on a global response team. This is costly, but the cost of another pandemic could be much higher.

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has estimated that the Covid pandemic will cost the world economy more than $ 12.5 trillion by 2024. Meanwhile, more than 6.2 million people are believed to have died worldwide. by coronavirus, according to the WHO, and Gates has repeatedly said in recent years that the world was not properly prepared for this pandemic.

“It seems wild to me that we cannot look at this tragedy and not, on behalf of the citizens of the world, make these investments,” Gates told the Financial Times on Sunday. The line echoed a comment he made at the April TED conference: “We have to spend billions to save billions.”

Between the proposed GERM team and other suggestions in his forthcoming book, including the fight against misinformation and making vaccines more accessible worldwide, Gates said his goal for 2022 is to “make sure Covid-19 be the last pandemic. ”

And while he warns that he is not happy with Covid’s continuing risks, the billionaire has also expressed optimism that the coronavirus will be more manageable this summer, saying in January that ideally most Americans will eventually be able to treat Covid as the “temporary.” flu. ”

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