The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has given over $50 million to COVID-19 solutions so far. On Tuesday, March 24th, business leader and philanthropist Bill Gates while working from home like everybody else, engaged in a virtual TED interview with head of TED, Chris Anderson. The interview is part of TED Connects: Community and Hope, a daily conversation series under the TED brand. The talk focused on “The healthcare systems we must urgently fix”. The talk went live on Facebook and everywhere else online.
The conversation explored the current coronavirus pandemic and how the world nations are handling it. We have outlined some main points from the interview.
In these unprecedented times, we all have questions. Bill Gates is someone that has proven to be a respectable and valid source for top notch information, so having him offer insights into the COVID-19 pandemic and just knowing that he is also staying at home like everyone else, gives a sense of togetherness.
Point 1: Is this the big pandemic Gates predicted in his talk?
When he gave his TED talk five years ago, he warned us to get prepared. He spoke about Ebola and Zika, and that while we were fortunate to combat those epidemics, a bigger one was going to come. In his interview, Anderson asks him if this is the BIG one he was talking about? Gates responds–admitting the fact that more resources could have been put in place to get the world ready for this pandemic. He mentions that the establishment of CEPI was one of the active steps taken to get ready for the next pandemic. CEPI was founded in Davos by the governments of Norway and India, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Wellcome Trust, and the World Economic Forum and has secured $760 million investment. CEPI is an innovative global partnership between public, private, philanthropic, and civil society organisations working together to accelerate the development of vaccines against emerging infectious diseases and enable equitable access to these vaccines for people during outbreaks. Gates mentions that more governments had a chance to do more ahead but while this might not necessarily be the big one, it will certainly affect the world greatly.
Point 2: Is the world responding too late? How much does Isolation help?
He says, isolation is proven to show effects quickly if implemented strictly. “The sooner you do it in a tough way, the sooner you can undo it and go back to normal,” Gates said. Drawing experience from China, Gates suggested that an extreme shutdown of six to ten weeks should dramatically slow down the coronavirus’ transmission in the U.S. If the United States enacts such stringent isolation, there could be positive results within 20 days. Gates argued that the United States missed the critical period to develop comprehensive testing—which would’ve needed to occur in February—that could’ve been used as an alternative to total, sustained nationwide isolation. He emphasized that the United States needs to maintain isolation at this moment to avoid devastating outcomes like those of Wuhan and northern Italy.
Point 3: What is the importance of an at home test kit, ‘self swab’?
Testing capacity is ramping up quickly in the U.S, Gates noted. On Monday, the FDA updated its guidelines for Covid-19 testing procedures to allow an at-home “self-swab” method to extract samples so doctors and nurses won’t have to risk contracting the virus during tests.
Point 4: How deep is this going to affect the economy?
On economy-life tradeoff, Gates said, “It’s very irresponsible for someone to suggest that we can have the best of both worlds,” “Bring the economy back to money is much more of a reversible thing than bringing people back to life…Two to three years from now, this thing on a global scale will be over, with a gigantic price tag.”
Point 5: Is there a Vaccine or drug in sight yet?
Gates mentioned there is certainly a race to develop vaccines and drugs.
Point 6: Is this outbreak seasonal?
Gates explained that because the virus is fairly new and we haven’t experienced multiple seasons of it yet, it is hard to know if with a changing season of higher temperatures, the pandemic would slow down. Gates is confident the innovation occurring in the rich countries in the Northern Hemisphere at the moment will fortify developing Southern Hemisphere countries, who may expect to meet up with the virus as seasons shift.
Point 7: Is there hope for humanity?
Gates expressed a decent level of optimism about the crisis. The world’s experience with COVID-19 will enable us to prepare for the next pandemic, he says.
Watch the full interview here: