Bill Gates Feels 'Terrible' About Coronavirus Pandemic, Wishes He Had Done More to Warn About Danger

Billionaire philanthropist Bill Gates has said he wishes he could have done more to warn about the threat of a global outbreak of infectious disease.

The Microsoft co-founder and co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, one of the largest private charitable groups in the world, told The Wall Street Journal he felt "terrible" about not raising enough awareness—despite years of campaigning.

"I wish I had done more to call attention to the danger," Gates said. "The whole point of talking about it was that we could take action and minimize the damage."

In an interview with the newspaper, Gates described the ongoing coronavirus pandemic as being the "most dramatic thing" to have happened in his lifetime and said hundreds of millions of dollars will be spent—via the foundation—on supplies, aid and research.

He revealed his personal concerns had been voiced to some U.S. politicians, including Donald Trump during a meeting at Trump Tower in December 2016.

"I chose, when I met with people all the way up to the top, in Europe, in the U.S., around the world, to talk about this pandemic risk," Gates, 64, told The Wall Street Journal. It remains unclear how many people in power took his warnings seriously.

The White House has been contacted for comment.

The novel coronavirus, which causes the respiratory disease COVID-19, has raged across the world in recent months. The U.S., the country with the most reported infections, has suffered more than 1.3 million confirmed cases and over 80,000 deaths.

The data is being tracked by Johns Hopkins University.

Yet despite some regrets amid the scope of the current outbreak, Gates has spent years voicing concerns in both public and private about the risks of a worldwide virus. He consistently warned governments and health agencies were not fully prepared.

One of Gates' most high-profile warnings came more than five years ago during a TED talk. "If anything kills over 10 million people in the next few decades it's most likely to be a highly infectious virus rather than a war," he said in his speech.

"Not missiles, but microbes," he added. "Now, part of the reason for this is that we have invested a huge amount in nuclear deterrents but we have actually invested very little in a system to stop an epidemic. We are not ready for the next epidemic."

The technologist recently warned that the Trump administration's plans to cut World Health Organization funding during the crisis was "as dangerous as it sounds."

Last month, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation announced that it was expanding the funding for its COVID-19 response, bringing the total to over $250 million. It has been working to facilitate drug testing in the hope of finding better treatments.

New funds will be used to support development of vaccines, boost health systems in Africa and South Asia and procure "essential medical supplies."

On his blog, Gates has continued to release updates about the foundation's work. He warned the COVID-19 pandemic will have a long-lasting effect on the world.

"The coronavirus pandemic pits all of humanity against the virus," he noted on his site last month. "The damage to health, wealth, and well-being has already been enormous. This is like a world war, except in this case, we're all on the same side," he added.

Bill Gates
Bill Gates, poses for a picture on October 9, 2019, in Lyon, central-eastern France. JEFF PACHOUD/AFP/Getty
Bill Gates Feels 'Terrible' About Coronavirus Pandemic, Wishes He Had Done More to Warn About Danger | Tech & Science
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