- Microsoft billionaire Bill Gates has been a longtime advocate of pandemic preparedness.
- Speaking to the FT on Saturday, Bill Gates called for a new global pandemic task force.
- The billionaire claimed the WHO had “less than 10 full-time people” working on outbreak preparedness.
Bill Gates has outlined proposals for a new global pandemic surveillance unit, stating that the World Health Organization currently has “less than 10 full-time people” on the lookout for deadly new viruses.
The Microsoft co-founder was pushing countries to take the threat of a global pandemic more seriously long before COVID-19 hit, warning viewers of a 2015 TED talk that the world was “not prepared “for a deadly outbreak.
Speaking to the FT ahead of the release of his forthcoming book, “How to Prevent the Next Pandemic,” Gates said his proposed “Global Epidemic Response and Mobilization” initiative should be under the WHO’s lead.
The billionaire philanthropist suggested creating a task force to monitor global health emergencies and coordinate responses across countries. The epidemic response team could be made up of experts, including computer modelers and epidemiologists, he said.
Before the COVID-19 outbreak, Gates claimed, the WHO had fewer than “10 full-time people” preparing for future outbreaks, adding that “even those people are distracted by a lot of other activities.” “The current WHO funding doesn’t take pandemics seriously,” Gates told the FT.
“We are still at risk of this pandemic generating a variant that would be even more transmissive and even more fatal,” he added. “Not likely, I don’t want to be a pessimistic voice, but it’s well above the 5 percent risk that this pandemic we haven’t even seen the worst.”
Gates said more funds were needed to prevent future pandemics: “It seems crazy to me that we can stop looking at this tragedy and not, on behalf of the citizens of the world, make these investments.
“We are still at risk of this pandemic generating a variant that would be even more transmissive and even more fatal.”
The WHO has come under scrutiny since COVID-19 began wreaking havoc around the world in early 2020, with critics arguing the body didn’t do enough to warn the world how dangerous the virus was from the start.
Gates spoke out in 2020 when former President Trump suggested cutting US funding for the WHO, writing on Twitter that “stopping funding for the World Health Organization during a global health crisis is as dangerous as it sounds.”
The WHO did not immediately respond to Insider requests for comment.