Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates warned Donald Trump about the threat posed to the US by pandemics during a meeting with the then-president-elect at Trump Tower back in December 2016, the billionaire told the Wall Street Journal.
“I chose, when I met with people all the way up to the top, in Europe, in the US, around the world, to talk about this pandemic risk”, Gates said in the interview published on Monday.
“I feel terrible. The whole point of talking about it was that we could take action and minimise the damage… I wish I had done more to call attention to the danger”, the Microsoft founder said.
Gates said that he held discussions about the need to prioritise US preparedness for any infectious outbreaks with other 2016 presidential hopefuls, and with many world leaders, who, while praising Gates' concerns and efforts, were not ready to provide any concrete measures or solid answers to the questions he posed.
“I asked about respiratory viruses, like how important are schools and if you do shutdowns, how much can you drop the transmission, and even… do masks actually help or not?”, Gates recalled.
This was not the first time that the world’s second-richest person raised the issue. During a TED talk back in 2015, Gates pointed out that the greatest risk the world faced came not from potential nuclear catastrophes, but from dangerous viruses.
“If anything kills over a 10 million people in the next few decades it’s most likely to be a highly infectious virus rather than a war”, Gates said back in 2015. “Not missiles, but microbes”.
So far, the philanthropist has invested hundreds of millions of dollars, including $100 million through the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, to develop vaccines, tracking systems and tests as a part of global efforts to fight the coronavirus pandemic. His wife and the organisation’s co-founder Melinda, ranked by the Forbes as one of the world’s most influential women, earlier slammed the Trump administration's efforts to deal with the outbreak, giving it a “D-minus” for its response to the crisis.