Billionaire Microsoft founder Bill Gates sounded the alarm on a global pandemic way back in 2015, and now he’s revealed his predictions for life after lockdown.
In a blog post on his personal site Gates Notes, Gates predicted developed countries would be moving into the second phase of the epidemic in the next two months.
“It is semi-normal,” he wrote.
“People can go out, but not as often, and not to crowded places. Picture restaurants that only seat people at every other table, and airplanes where every middle seat is empty.
“Schools are open, but you can’t fill a stadium with 70,000 people. People are working some and spending some of their earnings, but not as much as they were before the pandemic.
“In short, times are abnormal but not as abnormal as during the first phase.”
Gates said restrictions would ease gradually, to see whether increased contact levels would again increase the rate of infection.
In China, around half of Microsoft’s 6,200 employees are returning to work, with strict hygiene processes.
“They require masks and provide hand sanitizer and do more intensive cleaning,” Gates said.
“Even at work, they apply distancing rules and only allow travel for exceptional reasons.”
No normal without a vaccine
Gates’ philanthropic venture, The Gates Foundation, revealed it was working with a range of national and multilateral stakeholders who are funding the development of vaccines for Covid-19.
He told the Daily Show with Trevor Noah that his “early money” could accelerate things.
In fact, he told Yahoo Finance spending “a few billion dollars in this situation we’re in, where there’s trillions of dollars — that’s a thousand times more — trillions of dollars being lost economically, it is worth it.”
In an op-ed for The Economist, Gates said: “I believe that humanity will beat this pandemic, but only when most of the population is vaccinated. Until then, life will not return to normal.”
It won’t be a quick fix
Gates said the basic principle should be to allow activities that have a large benefit to the economy or human welfare, but pose a small risk of infection.
That, however, isn’t a simple task.
“It is not as simple as saying ‘you can do X, but not Y’,” he said.
“The modern economy is far too complex and interconnected for that...There are no easy answers to these questions. Ultimately, leaders at the national, state, and local levels will need to make trade-offs based on the risks and benefits of opening various parts of the economy.”
Gates said schools offer a big benefit, and reopening them should be a priority.
Large sporting and entertainment events on the other hand won’t return for a while, he predicted.