Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates warned Australians to be prepared for the next pandemic, which he said could happen because of a man-made virus.
The billionaire encouraged political leaders to forget about their differences and work together to prepare a global response.
"Compare the economic cost of being prepared for the next one to the cost of this one, over $10 trillion economic loss," Gates told Sydney's Lowy Institute think tank Monday.
"With the pandemic we were foolish not to have the tools, the practice, and global capacity to be on standby like we do with fire or earthquakes."
Australia had some of the strictest COVID restrictions in the western world. Across the country of 26 million, helicopters and drones were used to enforce lockdowns and command people to remain at home, while Australians were at one point not allowed to travel three miles away from their homes.
The government of South Australia also tested an app to track people in home quarantines. An app would send citizens random text messages from authorities asking them to take pictures of themselves in the locations they were supposed to be. A failure to upload the photo within 15 minutes would lead to police following up.
But Gates applauded Australia, as well as seven other unnamed countries, for doing population-scale diagnostics and having quarantine policies.
"That meant you kept the level of infection low in that first year when there were no vaccines," he said.
While speaking at the think tank, Gates advocated for a bolstering of resources to the World Health Organization to prepare for future pandemics. Gates previously floated creating a Global Epidemic Response and Mobilization team of 3,000 infectious disease experts, who would work around the world to deal with epidemic responses and assist local scientists with reporting outbreaks.
The philanthropist also said world leaders should revisit their pandemic policies every few years to ensure they are as prepared as possible for the next major disease outbreak.
"We need to be doing every five years a comprehensive exercise at both country and regional levels of pandemic preparedness, and you need a global group that's scoring everybody," he said.
In may of 2022, Gates warned the next pandemic could be "society-ending" with a much higher fatality rate than COVID-19.
“The chance of another pandemic in the next 20 years, either natural or intentional, I’d say, is over 50%,” Gates said at the Time 100 Summit in New York City, USA.
Gates, who has no medical background, became a public health authority during the early days of COVID-19. He donated $1.75 billion through his foundation to the global response to the pandemic, and authored the 2022 book, How To Prevent the Next Pandemic.
But Gates and his estranged wife Melinda were the subject of conspiracy theories alleging they were responsible for the COVID-19 pandemic. Back in 2015, Gates infamously predicted at a TED conference the world would soon experience a global pandemic.
On Oct. 18, 2019, Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation held Event 201, a war game that depicted a global Coronavirus pandemic that killed 65 million people. Just a few months later, the Chinese city of Wuhan locked down in response to the first outbreak of COVID-19.
Then in December 2022, Gates' foundation held another war game simulating a deadly Enterovirus originating in Brazil. The simulation ended with an estimated 1 billion cases and 20 million deaths, 15 million of those happening to children.
Conspiracy theorists also cited a June 2020 interview on CSPAN, where Gates said governments failed to prepare for the COVID-19 pandemic. As evidence the philanthropist was scheming to unleash pandemics.
"We will have to prepare for the next one. That, I would say, will get their attention this time," Gates said with a smile.
Back in January 2021, Gates said he was "very surprised" to see he'd become the subject of conspiracy theories.
“It’s almost hard to deny this stuff because it’s so stupid or strange that even to repeat it gives it credibility,” Gates said. "I hope it goes away."