The coronavirus pandemic is far from over, Bill Gates has warned, saying there could still be a variant which is “even more transmissive and even more fatal”.
“We haven’t even seen the worst of it,” he said in an interview.
While not wanting to be a “voice of doom and gloom”, the risk of a more virulent variant emerging is “way above 5%”, the Microsoft co-founder and philanthropist told the Financial Times.
“We’re still at risk of this pandemic generating a variant that would be even more transmissive and even more fatal,” he said, adding that longer-lasting vaccines which block infection are urgently required.
Gates, one of the world’s wealthiest people, has written a book called How to Prevent the Next Pandemic.
He is urging the creation of a team of international experts – ranging from epidemiologists to computer modellers – to identify threats and improve international coordination.
He is also calling for a global epidemic response team, managed by the World Health Organisation, and says extra investment is vital.
“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,” he said.
While acknowledging that the war in Ukraine is dominating the international agenda at present, he added: “The amount of money involved is very small compared to the benefit and it will be a test: can global institutions take on new responsibilities in an excellent way?”
A pandemic is something Gates has been warning about for years, having given a TED Talk in 2015 about the threat of a super-virus.
“If the pandemic hadn’t come along it would have been a fairly obscure TED Talk,” Gates told The Times.
“Now it’s been watched 43 million times.”
Modern life is not helping either, he added. “Everyone who works in infectious diseases just has this fear of human transmissible respiratory viruses. The more people travel and the stronger the interaction between wild species and humans, the more risk of zoonotic cross-species-type diseases.”