SARS-COV-2 has wreaked havoc across the world. The origins of the Coronavirus are yet uncertain, with speculation life that it was engineered in a Chinese lab from where it leaked either intentionally or otherwise. It was rubbished as a conspiracy theory by ‘experts’ but events from recent weeks have given massive credence to the plausibility of it.
Coronaviruses have existed for a long long time. The virus responsible for the SARS pandemic years ago was a Coronavirus. MERS is also caused by a virus that belongs to the Coronavirus group of viruses. It has been speculated by scientists for quite some time that a more dangerous Coronavirus could emerge that could prove to be much more deadly than the one that causes SARS. SARS-COV-2 proved to be one.
In October, 2019, a month before the first case of the Coronavirus is believed to have been reported in China, an event was organised that facilitated a 3.5 hour “pandemic tabletop exercise that simulated a series of dramatic, scenario-based facilitated discussions, confronting difficult, true-to-life dilemmas associated with response to a hypothetical, but scientifically plausible, pandemic.” That event, organised on October 18 that year, was called Event 201.
Event 201 recorded the participation of 15 global business, government, and public health leaders in the simulation exercise “that highlighted unresolved real-world policy and economic issues that could be solved with sufficient political will, financial investment, and attention now and in the future.”
According to its website, “The exercise consisted of pre-recorded news broadcasts, live “staff” briefings, and moderated discussions on specific topics. These issues were carefully designed in a compelling narrative that educated the participants and the audience.”
The website said, “Experts agree that it is only a matter of time before one of these epidemics becomes global—a pandemic with potentially catastrophic consequences. A severe pandemic, which becomes “Event 201,” would require reliable cooperation among several industries, national governments, and key international institutions.”
Event 201 Scenario
The Event 201 Scenario imagines a an outbreak of a novel zoonotic Coronavirus that is transmitted from bats to pigs and eventually humans.
The website says, “The disease starts in pig farms in Brazil, quietly and slowly at first, but then it starts to spread more rapidly in healthcare settings. When it starts to spread efficiently from person to person in the low-income, densely packed neighborhoods of some of the megacities in South America, the epidemic explodes. It is first exported by air travel to Portugal, the United States, and China and then to many other countries. Although at first some countries are able to control it, it continues to spread and be reintroduced, and eventually no country can maintain control.”
It is speculated that vaccines will not be available for at least a year. An antiviral drug is imagined that can help those sick but has no impact on curbing the spread of the virus. The scenario predicts 65 million deaths in the first 18 months. The pandemic is expected to continue until 80%-90% globally have been exposed to the virus at which point it is expected to become an endemic childhood disease.
Event 201 Exercise Team
The exercise team consisted of representatives from the John Hopkins Center for Health Security, the World economic Forum and from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
Professor George F. Gao, Director-General, Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention, was one of the ‘players’ at the exercise. Other players included Adrian Thomas from Johnson & Johnson, Latoya D. Abbott from Mariott International, Sofia Borges from the UN Foundation, Avril Haines from Colombia University who has previously served as the served as Assistant to the US President and Principal Deputy National Security Advisor, Stephen C. Redd from the American CDC and Timothy Evans from the McGill University.
The John Hopkins Center for Health Security, World Economic Forum, and Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation came up with a series of recommendations. The seven recommendations are listed below:
- Governments, international organizations, and businesses should plan now for how essential corporate capabilities will be utilized during a large-scale pandemic.
- Industry, national governments, and international organizations should work together to enhance internationally held stockpiles of medical countermeasures (MCMs) to enable rapid and equitable distribution during a severe pandemic.
- Countries, international organizations, and global transportation companies should work together to maintain travel and trade during severe pandemics. Travel and trade are essential to the global economy as well as to national and even local economies, and they should be maintained even in the face of a pandemic.
- Governments should provide more resources and support for the development and surge manufacturing of vaccines, therapeutics, and diagnostics that will be needed during a severe pandemic.
- Global business should recognize the economic burden of pandemics and fight for stronger preparedness.
- International organizations should prioritize reducing economic impacts of epidemics and pandemics.
- Governments and the private sector should assign a greater priority to developing methods to combat mis- and disinformation prior to the next pandemic response.
Bill Gates denies Event 201 ever occurred
Bill Gates in April 2020 denies Event 201 ever took place even though the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation was one of the major participants of the event. He told the BBC, “Now here we are. We didn’t simulate this, we didn’t practice, so both the health policies and economic policies, we find ourselves in uncharted territory.”
The organisers also denied that they predicted the Covid-19 pandemic that originated in Wuhan, which is technically speaking correct as the event focused on a hypothetical Coronavirus outbreak and not SARS-COV-2.
Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security said that “the Center for Health Security and partners did not make a prediction during our tabletop exercise. “For the scenario, we modeled a fictional coronavirus pandemic, but we explicitly stated that it was not a prediction,” they said in a statement.
“We are not now predicting that the nCoV-2019 outbreak will kill 65 million people. Although our tabletop exercise included a mock novel coronavirus, the inputs we used for modeling the potential impact of that fictional virus are not similar to nCoV-2019,” the statement read.
Fact-checkers ran to provide cover
Unsurprisingly, numerous ‘fact-checks’ emerged that attempted to clean the air about anything that might present the organisers in poor light. It is to be borne in mind that the conduct of such ‘fact-checkers’ have been extremely dubious since the beginning of the pandemic.
‘Fact-checkers’ rushed to brand the lab-leak hypothesis a conspiracy theory, thereby giving social media platforms a convenient ruse to ban accounts and censor content that highlighted the same. One of them said it was ‘neither coincidence nor conspiracy’.
USA Today in its fact-check declared “A Bill Gates-backed pandemic simulation in October did not predict COVID-19”. It is true that the simulation did not predict Covid-19 but the simulation was designed around a zoonotic Coronavirus.
What China said about Event 201
China also took note of the event, ignoring that the Director-General of their own CDC participated in the exercise. In an obvious attempt to hit back at USA, the Global Times said in a report published in April 2020, “Last October, a high-level pandemic exercise named Event 201 was hosted by a couple of US organizations. The drill simulated a scenario that a fictional virus called CAPS, which causes more severe symptoms than SARS and transmits via the respiratory route like the common flu, had caused a pandemic. Like COVID-19, there is no vaccine for CAPS.”
“Given the fact that the simulated virus is so much like COVID-19, is this just a coincidence? Another question is, why did it not take enough preventive measures at the early stages of the coronavirus outbreak since the US has predicted a similar pandemic.” GT added.
The first case of Covid-19 is reported to be a Hubei resident in China, detected on the 17th of November 2019.