Worst of COVID-19 pandemic in coming months, says Bill Gates

WASHINGTON (TIMES OF INDIA) – Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates, whose foundation has been part of the effort to develop and deliver COVID-19 vaccines, has warned that the next four to six months could be the worst of the coronavirus pandemic.

In recent weeks, the United States (US) has been experiencing record high cases, deaths and hospitalisations.

“I thought the US would do a better job handling it,” Gates, who in 2015 had warned the world of such a pandemic, said on Sunday.

“Sadly, the next four to six months could be the worst of the pandemic. The IHME (Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation) forecast shows over 200,000 additional deaths,” Gates told CNN.

He added, “If we would follow the rules, in terms of wearing masks and not mixing, we could avoid a large percentage of those deaths.”

The COVID-19 has so far killed more than 290,000 people in the US.

“Overall, when I did the forecasts in 2015, I talked about the deaths potentially being higher. So, this virus could be more fatal than it is.

“We didn’t get the worst-case. But the thing that has surprised me is that the economic impact in the US and around the world has been much greater than the forecasts that I made five years ago,” he said.

Gates said that his foundation had been funding a lot of the research for the vaccines.

“We’re very agile. We’re a partner in a thing called CEPI, which is the second biggest funder after the US government,” he said. “So, in diagnostics, therapy and vaccines, we know where the science is, we know how the pieces need to come together in an urgent way. And so our expertise in infectious disease, which normally only relates to developing countries, applied to the entire world for this crisis,” he added.

The US need to help all of humanity, Gates said when asked of the executive order signed by President Donald Trump prioritises distribution of the vaccine to Americans before it goes to people in other countries.

“We want the world economy be going. We want to minimise the deaths. And, you know, the basic technology is a German company. And so blocking international sharing and cooperation has been disruptive and a mistake during this entire pandemic,” he said.

“So, we need to ramp up the capacity of all the vaccines. There will be some additional ones approved in the months ahead that are easier to scale up the manufacturing. But the US has benefitted from other countries’ work care, and we shouldn’t be entirely selfish in how we go forward,” he added.

Gates also said that he will take the vaccine publicly as former US presidents, Bill Clinton, George Bush and Barack Obama, have said to increase the confidence of the people in the vaccine.