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The whole world is closely monitoring the recent outbreak caused by Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) first identified in Wuhan City, Hubei Province, China. Around 85,000 cases have been confirmed around the world with total deaths nearing 3000. As the governments around the world are taking steps to prevent further Coronavirus Disease infections, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation chairman Bill Gates yesterday shared his thoughts on how to respond to Coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak and prepare for the next epidemic that might come in the future. “The world needs to save lives now while also improving the way we respond to outbreaks in general. The first point is more pressing, but the second has crucial long-term consequences,” wrote Bill Gates.
Here’s the summary of his thoughts:
- The data so far suggests that the Coronavirus has a case fatality risk around 1%; this rate would make it several times more severe than typical seasonal influenza and would put it somewhere between the 1957 influenza pandemic (0.6%) and the 1918 influenza pandemic (2%).
- The average Coronavirus infected person spreads the disease to two or three others. That’s an exponential rate of increase.
- COVID-19 has already caused 10 times as many cases as SARS in just a quarter of the time.
How to respond to Coronavirus:
- In addition to helping their own citizens respond, donor governments should help low- and middle-income countries prepare for this pandemic.
- By helping countries in Africa and South Asia get ready now, we can save lives and also slow the global circulation of the virus. (Bill Gates has committed $100 million Coronavirus fund that focused particularly on developing countries)
- The world also needs to accelerate work on treatments and vaccines for COVID-19.
- Drug discovery can also be accelerated by drawing on libraries of compounds that have already been tested for safety and by applying new screening techniques, including machine learning, to identify antivirals that could be ready for large-scale clinical trials within weeks.
How to prevent future outbreaks like Coronavirus:
- It’s essential to help low- and middle-income countries strengthen their primary health care systems.
- The world also needs to invest in disease surveillance, including a case database that is instantly accessible to the relevant organizations and rules that require countries to share their information.
- Governments should have access to lists of trained personnel, from local leaders to global experts, who are prepared to deal with an epidemic immediately, as well as lists of supplies to be stockpiled or redirected in an emergency.
- We need to build a system that can develop safe and effective vaccines and antivirals, get them approved, and deliver billions of doses within a few months of the discovery of a fast-moving pathogen.
- We need to develop platforms that are predictably safe, so regulatory reviews can happen quickly, and that make it easy for manufacturers to produce doses at a low cost and a massive scale.
- Another technical challenge involves constructs based on nucleic acids. These constructs can be produced within hours after a virus’s genome has been sequenced; now we need to find ways to produce them at scale.
- We’ll need diplomatic efforts to drive international collaboration and data sharing. Developing antivirals and vaccines involves massive clinical trials and licensing agreements that would cross national borders.
- Budgets for these efforts need to be expanded several times over. Billions more dollars are needed to complete Phase III trials and secure regulatory approval for coronavirus vaccines, and still more funding will be needed to improve disease surveillance and response.
When we look at how Coronavirus (COVID-19) is disrupting supply chains, stock markets, and people’s lives, investing a couple of billion dollars to prevent such outbreak will be a bargain.
You can read Bill’s full blog post from the source link below.