Bill Gates warns that a coronavirus-like outbreak will probably happen 'every 20 years or so'

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Bill Gates spoke to the Financial Times via a video chat on April 2.

Screenshot/Financial Times

  • Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates said that people are now realizing that a viral outbreak similar to COVID-19 will likely happen "every 20 years or so." 

  • Speaking to the Financial Times earlier this month, Gates said that COVID-19 was the "biggest event that people will experience in their entire lives" and said world leaders and global policymakers have "paid many trillions of dollars more than we might have had to if we'd been properly ready."

  • The 67-year-old billionaire has been warning about the risk of a pandemic disease for years, stating that a global health crisis like coronavirus could wipe out 30 million people in less than a year. 

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Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates said that this coronavirus pandemic was the "biggest event that people will experience in their entire lives," and warned that a viral outbreak will likely happen "every 20 years or so." 

Gates discussed the global fight against the novel coronavirus with the Financial Times via Skype on April 2. FT posted the interview and transcript online on April 8.

He said world leaders and global policymakers have "paid many trillions of dollars more than we might have had to if we'd been properly ready."

"This is the biggest event that people will experience in their entire lives," Gates told FT. 

He said that in response to this outbreak, future governments will have "standby diagnostics, deep antiviral libraries, and early warning systems."

"The cost of doing all those things well is very small compared to what we're going through here," he said. "And so now people realize, 'OK, there really is a meaningful probability every 20 years or so with lots of world travel that one of these [viruses] will come along.' And so the citizens expect the government to make it a priority." 

He said he was confident that lessons learned from this outbreak will encourage people to better prepare for next time, but lamented that the cost this time around was too high. 

"It shouldn't have required a many trillions of dollars loss to get there," he said. "The science is there. Countries will step forward."

The 67-year-old billionaire has been warning about the risk of a pandemic disease for years, stating that a global health crisis like coronavirus could wipe out 30 million people in less than a year. 

In 2015, Gates gave a Ted Talk warning that the world was "not ready" for an impending pandemic. 

"There's no need to panic ... but we need to get going," he said in 2015.

In February, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation pledged $100 million last month to fight the coronavirus outbreak, designating money towards vaccine research, frontline responders, prevention measures, and treatment efforts around the world.

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