coronavirus

Bill Gates predicts when the next pandemic will arrive

Covid-19 vaccines developed by Pfizer and BioNTech are awaiting FDA approval but the tech billionaire warns that another virus is inevitable.

Microsoft founder Bill Gates has revealed on his podcast, Bill Gates and Rashida Jones Ask Big Questions, his thoughts on the future of global pandemics. In a far-reaching conversation with actor and writer Jones, Gates outlined his hopes for a post-covid world and what challenges humanity will face.

Gates had previously warned about the prospect of a worldwide pandemic and believes that another one is almost inevitable in an increasingly globalised world. When asked about it, he said:

"Hopefully it could be 20 years from now", before adding, "but we must assume it could be 3 years from now... There is a reasonable probability that the world will face something like this in the next 10 or 15 years," he added.

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See also: Gates predicts worst months of covid-19 pandemic lie ahead

Gates gives his thoughts on post-covid world

The medical breakthroughs in recent weeks have given hope that an end to the coronavirus pandemic is possible, with a number of pharmaceutical companies having recorded successful vaccination trials. But according to Gates the elimination of the virus would not lead to a return to pre-covid life.

He points to the growth of the 'home office' as employees and employers have been forced to adapt to social distancing restrictions. Technologies like video conferencing make remote working more viable than ever before and Gates told The New York Times' DealBook conference that working practices have been changed for good.

He predicts that business travel will fall by over 50% in the post-covid world with time in offices expected to be reduced by at least 30%. "We will continue to go to the office and we will continue to do business trips, but much less," he said. Already, Microsoft have announced a permanent change to their working practices that allows employees to work from home for at least half of their working hours.

Pandemic predictions are nothing new for Gates

While the 2020 coronavirus outbreak seemed to take world leaders by surprise, Gates has been talking about the threat of a global pandemic for years. In a 2015 TED Talk Gates warned that the US and other countries were not prepared for a pandemic:

"If anything kills over 10 million people in the next few decades, it's most likely to be a highly infectious virus rather than a war," he said. "Not missiles, but microbes."

More recently, in 2018 the billionaire philanthropist told an audience at an epidemic discussion hosted by the Massachusetts Medical Society that a pandemic could wipe out tens of millions if not combatted effectively. He cited a simulation carried out by the Institute for Disease Modelling that suggested that a modern version of the 1918 flu pandemic would now kill around 30 million people in just six months.

"We won't be so stupid the second time"

Despite his warning of future pandemics, Gates is optimistic that we will learn some lessons from the mishandling of covid-19 which could help humanity avoid a repeat. On his podcast he suggested that the next disease would be "less destructive" because we "will have practised" our response to it.

He added that nations would have had the chance to run "sickness games, like war games, and almost every country will respond as South Korea or Australia did, where they are quickly testing and quarantining people".

"Our testing tools will be much better. We won't be so stupid the second time", he added.