American billionaire and software developer Bill Gates has said the coronavirus is starting to behave like the “once-in-a-century pathogen we’ve been worried about,” and referred to the outbreak as a pandemic.
Gates, who has warned for years that the world is not ready for a deadly pandemic, wrote in an op-ed for the New England Journal of Medicine on Friday that COVID-19 poses a serious threat to the world because it’s far more deadly and contagious than many other deadly viruses.
The coronavirus has killed at least 2,900 people worldwide, the vast majority in China. There have been more than 83,000 global cases with infections in dozens of other countries, raising fears of a pandemic.
“In the past week, COVID-19 has started behaving a lot like the once-in-a-century pathogen we’ve been worried about,” Gates wrote. “I hope it’s not that bad, but we should assume it will be until we know otherwise.”
He said COVID-19′s current predicted fatality rate is higher than that of the 1957 influenza pandemic, which killed an estimated 66,000 people in the United States.
“First, it can kill healthy adults in addition to elderly people with existing health problems,” he wrote. “Second, Covid-19 is transmitted quite efficiently. The average infected person spreads the disease to two or three others — an exponential rate of increase.”
The mortality rate is “many times more severe than typical seasonal influenza,” Gates said.
Gates urged world leaders to try to help slow the spread of the coronavirus virus, calling on developed countries to help less developed nations deal with the virus.
He suggested that wealthy nations should supply low- and middle-income countries in Africa and Southern Asia with trained healthcare workers to monitor COVID-19′s spread and deliver vaccines.
He pointed out that many low- and middle-income countries’ “health systems are already stretched thin, and a pathogen like the coronavirus can quickly overwhelm them.”
Earlier this month, Gates warned that the coronavirus epidemic could overwhelm the health services of Africa and trigger a pandemic which may lead to 10 million deaths in the continent.
The Microsoft founder and philanthropist was speaking at the annual meeting of an American scientific society in Seattle, Washington, amid growing concerns about the coronavirus outbreak.
There are now fears that the disease could spread to sub-Saharan Africa where it could spark an uncontrollable outbreak, with health services unable to monitor or control the virus.
The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the charitable foundation that he and his wife, Melinda Gates, established in 2000, recently committed $100 million to fighting the coronavirus.