Billionaire philanthropist Bill Gates on Thursday warned that the world’s emergence from coronavirus lockdowns will be slow, and cautioned that it will take innovation before people feel safe enough to attend large public events or flock to restaurants.

“Even as a government relaxes restrictions on behavior, not everyone will immediately resume the activities that are allowed,” Gates, the co-founder of Microsoft and co-chair of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, wrote in a long essay posted Thursday to his blog. “It will take a lot of good communication so that people understand what the risks are and feel comfortable going back to work or school.”

Gates said that the dramatic shutdowns of cities and countries worldwide have been necessary to slow spread of the SARS-CoV-2 virus, which causes Covid-19, despite the enormous societal costs.

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“It is reasonable for people to ask whether the behavior change was necessary. Overwhelmingly, the answer is yes,” he wrote. “The change allowed us to avoid many millions of deaths and extreme overload of the hospitals, which would also have increased deaths from other causes.”

To those who argue the cure is worse than the disease — that the global economy has been crippled because of the shutdowns imposed to slow spread of the virus — Gates noted that even without strong government actions, people would have changed their behaviors in the face of rapid global spread of the dangerous virus.

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“There was never a choice to have the strong economy of 2019 in 2020,” he said.

Gates suggested a highly effective treatment — one that might be effective in about 95% of cases — would likely be needed for people to feel confident that they could resume activities like going to large sporting events or concerts. He noted options for treatments include those that harvest antibodies from the blood of survivors to help people combat the disease.

Vaccines would be the most obvious path back to normalcy, he said, but they and other needed interventions will require enormous investments if they are to be developed quickly.

“I think of this as the billions we need to spend so we can save trillions,” he said.

Gates warned that vaccines are not likely to be distributed equitably in the early days.

“Ideally, there would be global agreement about who should get the vaccine first, but given how many competing interests there are, this is unlikely to happen,” he wrote. “The governments that provide the funding, the countries where the trials are run, and the places where the pandemic is the worst will all make a case that they should get priority.”

He also warned it could be difficult to test the effectiveness of vaccines, given the fast-moving nature of the outbreak. They will need to be tested in areas where there is enough current spread to see if they actually are protective.

  • Since when did Bill Gates become an epidemiologist? He might be well read on the subject but unless he has put in the lab time and has the credentials that the real experts in the field have he should stay in his lane. Perhaps he feels that being a billionaire makes him an authority on the subject.

    • Not really. He has predicted such a viral outbreak is what the country is not prepared for, and will suffer enormously if we continue to stay unprepared, several years back. Being rich does not automatically make someone dumb.

    • Why don’t you ask “Does what he is saying make sense?” instead of attacking his “credentials”? What is an epidemologist at the end of the day? Isn’t that someone who is well read on their subject? Reading through the article above, it makes a lot of sense and coupled with his track record of predicting this very situation that we find ourselves in, perhaps being well-read is the key to getting out of this mess.

  • Let’s say it again for the people in the back: “However, preventing deaths was NOT the primary purpose of the shutdown. It was to slow down the rate of hospitalizations which is far greater than the rate of deaths and threatens to cripple the medical system for ANYONE seeking care. The inherent danger is that the US Medical system is not currently equipped to handle a massive influx of Covid patients, as it stands. If we relax shutdown regulations, this is a very real possibility.”

    So how would you feel if/when you or your family needed a ventilator and you were told sorry, we’re all out. You/your family member will die soon. Say your goodbyes via this iPad. And then 3 weeks later the doctor who treated you dies too. And the nurse. And the respiratory therapist. And the registration clerk. Obviously I’m being dramatic but if we must end the shutdown to save the economy (and I see some validity in this) then we also must be willing to accept the risks on a personal level and consider that healthcare may not be available when we need it if we take that chance because the beds and vents and personnel will be taken up by a surge in Covid cases. There’s not an easy or pretty solution. Maybe those willing to take the risk could sign a waiver saying they won’t seek healthcare if they catch it and become ill. It all sucks. God speed.

  • So easy for the guy sitting comfortably in his mansion, protected by his millions. We will just let the little people be stressed by finances, malnutrition and keeping a roof over their heads until a heart attack or other fatal chronic disease brought on by the stress kills them then! spoken from a place of TRUE WHITE MAN PRIVILEGE!!!

    • That’s exactly what I was thinking. How condescending and arrogant of Bill Gates to say, just sit and wait until there is a vaccine. I doubt he even has to leave his mansion to get food for his family. His workers probably do it, and I’m sure his chef cooks it for him too. He says it will be expensive to accelerate development of a vaccine. So why doesn’t he spend a few tens of billions and help? The arrogance of the elite is truly amazing.

    • These replies are disgusting. Gates and his wife are spending hundreds of millions to fund R&D companies seeking cures and vaccines. To spit on a rich yet huge-hearted smart innovative man while forgetting that all your computerized gadgets exist thanks to him and Steve Jobs – that is low. Smarten up, try to realize that he IS right – again.

  • I am a disabled veteran with a b.a. in economics. I totally agree. Politicians believe that everyone should follow their ideologies. The truth of this matter is that some people will stay home and only spend enough to survive. Every person is different thought and action. However it will take a while . Businesses will fail, others may startup. At some point people will spend money, assuming jobs are available. The best thing the government can do is to listen to science first for survival and the planet. Economics is based on supply and demand. What people think is going to happen is how they spend their money and the products are available.

  • “He also warned it could be difficult to test the effectiveness of vaccines, given the fast-moving nature of the outbreak. They will need to be tested in areas where there is enough current spread to see if they actually are protective.”

    What does that mean? How can you ‘test’ a vaccine in a vulnerable population before verifying its effectiveness? Will they be informed that they are the guinea pigs?

  • IN THIS ARTICLE– “policymakers may be making sweeping economic and social decisions — ”

    UHH, what the heck to you think they’ve been doing already with this knee-jerk shutdown of our country? and @Abdul, if what we need is faith in God, lets stop acting like anything – ANYTHING we do can defy His will. I will continue to behave with faith and wisdom (mindfulness, cleanliness, elbow-room, etc). I suggest we all do, as we should.

  • Bill Gates and anyone else who is making an income in this crisis needs to shut up and stop playing financial suicide. Lockdowns are so stupid.

    • Lockdowns are what keep hospitals and emergency care centres able to handle the loads. And what keep this nasty killer virus from spreading to far too many people. Get a grip, stay home, THINK !

  • You do realize that the flu has a vaccine every year? There is no such vaccine for Covid-19, hence the danger. The flu killed 80,000 Americans over the course of a year, pretty standard. Covid has killed 47, 684 Americans, so far, and that’s just over the course of a couple months. If you understand exponential growth, then you’ll know that this number will continue to rise, at the very least doubling in the next month, even as the rate of cases begins to decrease. If we take your 1% and just allowed the virus to run through the population, unchecked, that’s approximately 32.8 million American deaths.
    Even at 0.1% it would still be about 3 million dead. The conservative 2 million deaths figure is allegedly what caused President Trump to begin taking the threat seriously. Do the economic shutdowns cause damage? Undoubtedly so. But these numbers must be weighed against any economic damage that would be caused.
    However, preventing deaths was NOT the primary purpose of the shutdown. It was to slow down the rate of hospitalizations which is far greater than the rate of deaths and threatens to cripple the medical system for ANYONE seeking care. The inherent danger is that the US Medical system is not currently equipped to handle a massive influx of Covid patients, as it stands. If we relax shutdown regulations, this is a very real possibility.
    https://www.kff.org/health-costs/press-release/the-u-s-has-fewer-physicians-and-hospital-beds-per-capita-than-italy-and-other-countries-overwhelmed-by-covid-19/

    • Go back and look up the social effects of the 2008 recession. Deaths from suicide were up. Divorces were up. Child abuse was up. Crime was up. The severity of the 2008 recession had consequences that continue to this day. Now we are facing a recession that gives every indication of being even worse than 2008.

      My previous post was meant to initiate discussion. Public policy needs to balance the needs of all segments of society. And the best public policy looks to the long term. The current shut-down policies are short term, unfairly victimize the young, and are not sustainable. The old are our past and deserve our respect. The young are our future and deserve our support. And the current shutdown policies are out of balance.

    • Wonder what these privileged white men will say when we find the virus is far more widespread already and mortality rate is far lower?

  • Bill Gates is not a politician but today we found more comfort in his words than the words of today’s world most popular politician. It’s obvious this person cares about people’s lives and safety than money. I strongly agreed with Bill that even without government intervention as this pandemic continues to spread people will lockdown their nations, this obvious. Every country most consider Bill said before thinking about relaxing restriction.

    • Lockdown is not comfort. But since you are making money right now. Just shut up and continue to wear your crazy hat.

  • Last year’s flu season killed 80,000 Americans and we didn’t even blink. The shutdowns were not instituted to save Americans. They were instituted to save American Baby Boomers. This happened because our politics, and thus our public policy, is Boomer-centric. For those under 60 the mortality rate will be a small fraction of 1%. Yet, the shutdowns continue and the economic damage mounts. We are crippling the young for the sake of the old and it cannot continue without doing serious damage to our society.

    • Agree wholeheartedly, this is another example of politics and policy skewed to favor those in power at the expense of young and future generations. We’ve shut down the economy to save the lives of people in nursing homes and elderly who will largely die in the next 5 to 10 years regardless of what is done. If the virus was lethal to babies and small children I don’t imagine we would be taking such extreme measures.

    • We shut down because some mentally insane people reads anything that the crazy Dr Fauci is talking about.

    • I am going to be 75 in June and I feel I have enough wisdom to follow some sensible rules to keep myself safe. I’m not depending on the government to take care of me except now, most of my income is dependent on Social security & may not last very long because we are now collapsing our economy. I think many are acting out of extreme fear and because very few young ones are dying we should get people back to work & school, then take care of the elderly in care communities or their homes and then put our trust in God. Let’s not give our freedoms over to the government!

    • To c greene,
      You make an excellent point. Social Security is a pay-as-you-go system and none of us get back what we “put in”. The current collapse in tax collections from wages will endanger the solvency of the Social Security system. It’s insolvency would be disastrous.

    • Perfect. This has always been the plan of the GOP : age centric culture wars. Now… let’s get rid of Social Security and Medicare and put more money in the pockets of the “young”.

    • Far too many ignore that this virus hits and kills ANY age group. Lockdowns are what keep the viral spread from totally over-running the already limping health care system – for ALL ages. The world MUST curb movement to avoid global killing fields. It is disastrous though that in far too many countries (the US included) there is no system that substitutes lost income, rent reductions, business losses. I live in a country that does, our taxes are far, far higher – but obviously worth it. Good luck, USA.

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