Bill Gates weighed in on the novel coronavirus Friday morning with a blog post in which he called on world leaders to not only address the current problem but improve “the way we respond to outbreaks in general.”

“Global health experts have been saying for years that another pandemic rivaling the speed and severity of the 1918 influenza epidemic wasn’t a matter of if but when. … In the past week, COVID-19 has started to behave a lot like the once-in-a-century pathogen we’ve been worried about,” he wrote, using the name of the illness caused by the new strain of coronavirus.

The new virus is part of the coronavirus family that also includes Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) and Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS), but it seems to spread much easier than either of those predecessors.

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“The good news is that national, state, and local governments and public health agencies can take steps over the next few weeks to slow the spread of COVID-19,” Gates wrote.

Among his suggestions: Aid from “donor governments” to shore up health systems in low- and middle-income countries; development of treatments and vaccines, and making them widely available to the public without a profit motive; and investing in disease surveillance and data sharing among countries.

“Budgets for these efforts need to be expanded several times over,” Gates wrote, arguing that the private sector can’t solve these problems on its own. “… Obviously, billions of dollars for anti-pandemic efforts is a lot of money. But that’s the scale of investment required to solve the problem. And given the economic pain that an epidemic can impose — just look at the way COVID-19 is disrupting supply chains and stock markets, not to mention people’s lives— it will be a bargain.”

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has pledged $100 million to help the global response to COVID-19 and is hiring staff to join a team dedicated to that effort. The foundation — which focuses broadly on ensuring access to quality health care and education for those who need it most — has funded efforts to combat other diseases around the world, including malaria, HIV and polio.

You can read Gates’ full blog post on GatesNotes.com.

(Anika Varty / The Seattle Times)