Strap in, folks: the coronavirus pandemic isn’t ending for a while, according to Bill Gates.
The Microsoft co-founder spoke about the ongoing pandemic, which topped 200,000 deaths in the US on Tuesday, where the billionaire philanthropist said in a recent interview that the “best case” scenario for the pandemic ending might not be until 2022.
Speaking to “Fox News Sunday,” Gates said that he believes life will return to a quasi-normal in summer 2021 due to a potential COVID-19 vaccine, which is likely to be released sometime early in 2021. However, he doesn’t see an end to the pandemic until the following year.
“The end of the epidemic, best case, is probably 2022. But during 2021, the numbers, we should be able to drive them down, if we take the global approach,” Gates said in the interview. “So, you know, thank goodness vaccine technology was there, that the funding came up, that the companies put their best people on it. That’s why I’m optimistic this won’t last indefinitely.”
Gates also expressed his displeasure with the lack of testing in the country, specifically how the US handled the pandemic compared to other countries that were able to reopen economies and return to semblances of normal life.
“Unfortunately, we did a very poor job, and you could of see that in the numbers if you compare the Asian countries like South Korea and Australia,” Gates said, via CNN.
He added: “You know what happened was that 40,000 people came out of China, because we didn’t ban the residents and citizens from coming in. We created this rush. And we didn’t have the ability to test or quarantine those people, so that seeded the disease here,” Gates said. “Even today, people don’t get their results in 24 hours, which is outrageous that we still have that.”
Gates previously outlined his three steps that the US must take in the COVID-19 fight in the beginning of the pandemic back in April. In an op-ed for The Washington Post, Gates called for a nationwide shutdown which included travel within the US. While states have adopted mandatory quarantine measures for travelers jetting to states deemed COVID-19 hotbeds, that effort wasn’t embraced everywhere. He also called for increased testing and finding a vaccine with a data-based approach.
Despite testing trials for a vaccine expected to happen soon, critics are cautioning people to calm their expectations even after a vaccine is found.
Dale Fisher, professor of infectious diseases at the National University of Singapore, told CNBC that while a vaccine will help, it won’t be a “fairytale” ending.
“I would see the vaccine as only helping (the situation),” Fisher said. “It’s not going to be the fairytale (ending) everyone wants it to be where we’ll have an 100% effective vaccine and 100% of people will take it, and they’ll all receive it over the course of a month and we can go back to our way of life.”
He added: “Most people aren’t expecting this to be 100% effective. So I think you need to have the non-pharmacological interventions, such as the mask wearing and the limiting of gatherings and things like that for a long time to come.”