Boris Johnson said it will take a “truly global endeavour” to prevent future pandemics, as he met Bill Gates to discuss how governments can prepare.

The Prime Minister said the Microsoft co-founder “sounded the alarm” about how unprepared the world was for a global health crisis, long before coronavirus.

He added that leaders must now “heed his call” to stop “something like this ever happening again”.

Boris Johnson
Prime Minister Boris Johnson (Dominic Lipinski/PA)

Mr Johnson hosted a virtual meeting with Mr Gates and the heads of 10 life science and pharmaceutical firms on Tuesday, to discuss how governments can work with the industry to prevent future pandemics.

He praised the “herculean” joint effort that such companies were undertaking to tackle the disease at “record speed”.

Mr Johnson said: “Defeating coronavirus and preventing future pandemics is a truly global endeavour, requiring ingenuity, tenacity and a spirit of openness to succeed.

“Bill Gates sounded the alarm on the world’s lack of preparation for a major health crisis long before most of us had heard the word coronavirus – and now we must heed his call to stop something like this ever happening again.”

The 10 chief executives “re-committed” to help ensure fair global access to any successful coronavirus vaccine, Downing Street said.

Malaria event
Bill Gates (Dave Thompson/PA)

Mr Gates, who is co-chair of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, said the world needed a “comprehensive strategy” to avoid future pandemics.

He said: “Every head of state is thinking about two questions right now – how can we end the current pandemic?

“And how can we prevent the next one?

“To answer those questions, the world needs a comprehensive strategy; a coherent approach to financing and manufacturing billions of doses of vaccines, tests and drugs; and a network to monitor for new threats.

“We’re fortunate that Prime Minister Johnson has come up with a smart plan to do just that in the UK, and our foundation will continue to work with his government and others to make it a reality.”

Mr Johnson has already pledged to use the UK’s G7 presidency next year to build a new “global approach” to health security, with a five-point plan to protect humanity against another pandemic.

He committed £500 million in aid funding for the Covax vaccines procurement pool to help poor countries access a coronavirus jab, and announced a plan, developed with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and The Wellcome Trust, to help stop future pandemics.

The proposals include developing a global network of “zoonotic hubs” to identify dangerous pathogens before they jump from animals to humans, as well as improving manufacturing capacity for treatments and vaccines.

The head of the US drug firm Johnson & Johnson, Alex Gorsky, and Albert Bourla from the pharmaceutical company Pfizer, were among the chief executives who attended the virtual meeting.