On Wednesday, Bill Gates held a Reddit AMA about the coronavirus outbreak.
Gates’ foundation, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, has a long history of contributing to the fight against infectious diseases.
Gates was asked how long the lockdown measures will go for.
He responded by saying that if the lockdown measures were held correctly, they could last only 6 to 10 weeks.
Here’s our overview of the key points from Gates’ Reddit AMA.
How long will countries remain in lockdown?
Tens of millions of people have suddenly found themselves in various forms of lockdown. Some countries, such as France, Italy and Spain, have imposed strict nationwide lockdowns.
Others, such as the United States, United Kingdom and Australia, are banning public gatherings but attempting to keep their economies running by keeping businesses running.
Whichever form of lockdown your country may be experiencing, Bill Gates shared an interesting perspective.
A Reddit user asked Gates how long the lockdowns will last for.
“This will vary a lot by country,” he wrote. “China is seeing very few cases now because their testing and ‘shut down’ was very effective. If a country does a good job with testing and ‘shut down’ then within 6-10 weeks they should see very few cases and be able to open back up.”
Will countries experience a resurgence of outbreak when they open up again?
One worry about strict lockdowns is that countries will experience a resurgence of infections once people are free to interact again.
Gates said China had not seen a resurgence of the virus. “They did their ‘shut down’ and were able to reduce the number of cases,” he wrote. “They are testing widely so they see rebounds immediately and so far there have not been a lot. They avoided widespread infection.”
On Thursday, for the first day since the beginning of the outbreak last December, China reported no new infections.
Wuhan, the Chinese city where the outbreak originated, is emerging from a two-month complete lockdown.
The United States doesn’t have an organized testing system in place
On Reddit, Gates wrote that testing for the virus in the US was “not organised yet.”
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“In the next few weeks I hope the Government fixes this by having a website you can go to to find out about home testing and kiosks,” he said. “Things are a bit confused on this right now.”
When will vaccines be developed for coronavirus?
Gates was asked when the first available vaccines will be developed.
He predicted that the first available coronavirus vaccines will be administered to health care workers and other critical workers.
“This could happen in 18 months if everything goes well,” he said, but noted that “we and [National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Director Anthony] Fauci and others are being careful to not promise this when we are not sure. The work is going at full speed.”
Gates also cautioned that a number of testing processes will be required, knowing that many potential vaccines will be unsuccessful.
His nonprofit, The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, is currently investing in biotechnical research to develop a vaccine. The organization has pledged $125 million toward treatments for the coronavirus. The initiative is called the COVID-19 Therapeutics Accelerator.
Bill Gates has a long history warning the world about the dangers of an infectious disease outbreak
For many years, the billionaire and philanthropist Bill Gates has been advocating for increased preparedness for an infectious disease outbreak.
In 2017, Business Insider published an op-ed by Gates where he warns that a pandemic could wipe out 30 million people, cautioning that we are not prepared yet.
Given the dangers of an outbreak, Gates suggested we put more focus on healthy security:
“The point is, we ignore the link between health security and international security at our peril. Whether it occurs by a quirk of nature or at the hand of a terrorist, epidemiologists say a fast-moving airborne pathogen could kill more than 30 million people in less than a year. And they say there is a reasonable probability the world will experience such an outbreak in the next 10-15 years.”
We have the technology available to prepare for an outbreak:
“The good news is that with advances in biotechnology, new vaccines and drugs can help prevent epidemics from spreading out of control. And, most of the things we need to do to protect against a naturally occurring pandemic are the same things we must prepare for an intentional biological attack.”
We just need to prepare for epidemics in the same way we prepare for war:
“The third thing we need to do is prepare for epidemics the way the military prepares for war. This includes germ games and other preparedness exercises so we can better understand how diseases will spread, how people will respond in a panic, and how to deal with things like overloaded highways and communications systems.”
A few years ago Gates urged that the threat of a global pandemic was on par with the threats of nuclear war and climate change:
“I view the threat of deadly pandemics right up there with nuclear war and climate change. Innovation, cooperation, and careful planning can dramatically mitigate the risks presented by each of these threats.”
Will the coronavirus pandemic be a catastrophe or a triumph of human will?
In 2017, Gates asked whether a potential pandemic would be a catastrophe or a triumph of human will:
“When the next pandemic strikes, it could be another catastrophe in the annals of the human race. Or it could be something else altogether. An extraordinary triumph of human will. A moment when we prove yet again that, together, we are capable of taking on the world’s biggest challenges to create a safer, healthier, more stable world.”
We have an opportunity to look after each other and create a safer, healthier and more stable world.
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