Tue 15 September 2020:
The coronavirus pandemic will cost the economies of the Middle East “literally trillions of dollars,” according to billionaire businessman Bill Gates.
“It’s hard to say what would have happened if there had been no Covid-19, but you’re talking literally trillions of dollars in damage,” Arabian Business reported .
“And what does that mean for progress? It means there will be a reversal in GDP and the numbers of people affected by poverty will take decades to recover,” the Microsoft founder and philanthropist added.
The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation on Tuesday launched its fourth annual Goalkeepers Report, featuring new data showing how the ripple effects of coronavirus have stopped 20 years of progress toward the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
“Before this pandemic hit, we didn’t have an ideal situation in the Middle East, especially in Yemen, and coronavirus has made that even more challenging,” Gates said.
“[Our foundation] has always had a lot of activities within the UAE regarding eradicating polio… the vaccine should always be the most financeable thing,” he added.
However, Gates predicted that the largest chunk of funds would need to go towards restoring the regional health care system.
“The difficulties of resurrecting the healthcare system will cause more deaths than Covid-19 itself,” Gates said.
“And if the price of oil stays down that might [negatively] affect the scale of the generosity of the richer regional countries,” he added.
“If you don’t stop the disease everywhere, it’s going to keep coming back,” Gates said. “It’s hard to measure the misery that the pandemic has caused but it’s certainly greater in developing countries – with the inequities, educational setbacks, health setbacks… tracking the level of human misery is even more difficult.”
Vaccine by 2021
However, Gates said there is an “extremely high chance” of having an effective vaccine in production by early 2021, partly due to academic centres and private companies funding the trials on a non-profit basis.
“Around 10 to 20 years ago we would not have been able to create vaccines at this speed,” he said. “India, for example, can now do high-volume, low-cost manufacturing.”
“The first thing we need to do to end the pandemic is develop a vaccine but then the challenge is how do we get them out to everyone that needs them?”
If the US wins the global vaccine race, it must allocate resources to other countries for the pandemic and facilitate the vaccine being made in mini-factories across the world, Gates said.
“We need the capacity to be as large as possible,” he said. “If we can get billions of doses made in 2021 then we can hit multiple goals.”
Still, the number of things that could have been done better in this pandemic is “very large”, Gates added.
“We underestimated the value of masks and it took a while to get that message out,” he said. “Even at this point, the medical knowledge around coronavirus is far less than I would have expected.”