Bill Gates calls for ‘pandemic firefighters’ in new op-ed

by Ana Lopez

Bill Gates in one New York Times op-ed on Sunday called for a global response team to tackle pandemics.

“I’m afraid we’re making the same mistakes again,” he wrote while mentioning the COVID-19 pandemic killed more than 6 million people worldwide, “a collective failure to prepare for pandemics”.

The op-ed was published about 10 days after the birthday of the World Health Organization (WHO) declaring that the 2020 coronavirus was a pandemic.

Gates is the co-founder of Microsoft and a billionaire who, despite his commitments to keep giving away his money, is still number 4 on the Bloomberg Billionaires Index. Gates conducts philanthropic efforts through the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, which has long interested in global health. He’s involved too attempts tackling climate change.

In his Sunday op-ed and in his book published in 2022, “How to prevent the next pandemicGates advocates a specific model of global pandemic response.

Essentially, he believes the countries of the world should work together on a “pandemic firefighter.” This included what he called “fire drills,” where international teams would practice coordinating things from mass early testing to interpersonal education in an outbreak. He also suggested that this should be a team of trained professionals, not volunteers.

This is analogous to the “fire brigadehe called for thousands of experts to create in the book. The op-ed also applauded the “Global Health Emergency Corps” that the WHO and other organizations are working on.

In Januarythe WHO has released a report various ways to improve the response to global pandemics, such as forming a Global Health Emergency Council and a “global health emergency corps”, which would consist of “trusted and trained national experts in a range of disciplines … to prevention and operational readiness to rapidly detect and respond to emerging health threats.”

Gates said it was critical for such a group to work quickly in the event of a new pandemic, as speed is of the essence.

“These types of fires are rare, but when they happen there is no time to lose,” he wrote. “The question is whether we have the foresight to invest in that future now before it’s too late.”

Experts suggest that humanity is far from out of the woods on the risk of another pandemic. Climate change, human actions and even things like the thawing of Arctic ice unlock long-gone diseases, according to ProPublica.

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