Last week, a prophetic 2015 TED Talk from Bill Gates on the threat of a pandemic went viral for essentially predicting the COVID-19 outbreak. On Tuesday, Gates talked about coronavirus directly in a new live, hour-long online talk with the head of TED, Chris Anderson, in which he addressed many of the public’s questions and concerns about the novel virus, the economy, the healthcare system, and the lockdown.
While he didn’t explicitly name any political leaders, Gates said that we “should have done more” back in early February when we first became aware that the virus was spreading. He believes we are now past the point where we can hope to swiftly contain the pandemic the way that countries like South Korea have. In order to avoid the “worst-case scenario,” like what has happened in Italy, Gates said plainly, “We need to shut down.”
Gates also said it’s problematic that some parts of the U.S. are self-isolating while others are not, noting that while quarantining is “very tough on people” and “disastrous for the economy,” the “sooner you do it in a tough way, the sooner you can undo it and go back to normal.”
“It’s very irresponsible for someone to suggest we can have the best of both worlds,” Gates said, a seeming response to President Trump’s push to restart the economy. “What we need now is the extreme shutdown so that, in 6 to 10 weeks, if things go well, then you can start opening back up.”
When asked what he would do if he were president right now, Gates said that he would send “the clear message that we have no choice but to maintain isolation” and that “we have to prepare ourselves and do it very well.”
Gates conceded that “it is really tragic that the economic effects of this are very dramatic.” But he also had a clear message on whether or not a national lockdown was worth the toll it would take to the economy: “Money is a more reversible thing than bringing people back to life.”
We’re live with Bill Gates, Microsoft co-founder, philanthropist and TED speaker, to talk about the healthcare systems in dire need of fixing. Ask him your questions in the comments! #TEDConnects
Posted by TED on Tuesday, March 24, 2020
In addition to a nationwide lockdown, Gates believes the most crucial move right now is to expand the capacity of COVID-19 testing for those who need it.
“We have health workers who are symptomatic and they can’t get a test so they don’t know if they should go in or not go in [to work], and yet we have lots of testing given to people who are not symptomatic,” he said. “The testing needs to be organized and prioritized and that’s super urgent… The testing is everything. That’s how you know if you need more shut down, or if you’re starting to get to the point where you can relieve it.”
Gates was calm and reassuring throughout the talk, admitting that while no one really heeded his previous warnings, he’s “positive” that the coronavirus crisis “should draw us together” and that “we will get out of this.” And for more uplifting content, check out Amid Coronavirus Panic, These Acts of Kindness Will Restore Your Faith.