- Microsoft billionaire Bill Gates has been a longstanding advocate of pandemic preparation.
- 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 readiness.
Bill Gates has outlined proposals for a new global pandemic surveillance unit, claiming the World Health Organization currently has “less than 10 full-time people” on the lookout for deadly new viruses.
The Microsoft cofounder was pushing countries to take the threat of a global pandemic more seriously long before COVID-19 arrived, warning viewers of a 2015 TED Talk the world was “not ready” for a deadly outbreak.
Speaking to the FT ahead of the release of his upcoming book, “How to Prevent the Next Pandemic”, Gates said his proposed “Global Epidemic Response and Mobilization” initiative should fall under WHO’s management.
The billionaire philanthropist suggested the task force be put together to monitor global health emergencies and coordinate responses across countries. The epidemic response team could be made up of experts including computer modelers as well as epidemiologists, he said.
Prior to the outbreak of COVID-19, Gates claimed, the WHO had fewer than “10 full-time people” preparing for future outbreaks, adding that “even those people are distracted with many other activities”. “The current WHO funding is not at all serious about the pandemics,” Gates told the FT.
“We’re still at risk of this pandemic generating a variant that would be even more transmissive and even more fatal,” he added. “It’s not likely, I don’t want to be a voice of doom and gloom, but it’s way above a 5 per cent risk that this pandemic, we haven’t even seen the worst of it.”
Gates said that more funding was needed to prevent future pandemics: “It seems wild to me that we could fail to look at this tragedy and not, on behalf of the citizens of the world, make these investments.
“We’re still at risk of this pandemic generating a variant that would be even more transmissive and even more fatal.”
The WHO has been the subject of scrutiny since COVID-19 began causing havoc around the world at the start of 2020, with critics arguing the body didn’t do enough to warn the world how dangerous the virus was early on.
Gates spoke out in 2020 when former President Trump suggested cutting US funding for the WHO, writing on Twitter that “halting funding for the World Health Organization during a world health crisis is as dangerous as it sounds.”
The WHO did not immediately respond to Insider’s requests for comment.