Bill Gates talks publicly for first time since divorce

Bill Gates
Bill Gates Photo credit: Getty Images

Billionaire Bill Gates discussed COVID-19 in his first public comments after he announced his divorce with Melinda Gates. 

The former Microsoft co-founder did not disclose any information regarding his personal life while participating in the US Chamber of Commerce virtual global forum on May 19, Fox Business reported. 

Gates instead spoke about his thoughts on COVID-19 vaccinations and climate change. 

"The innovation, particularly on vaccines, was faster than ever. Even faster than people like Dr Fauci and myself led people to expect." Gates said. "So, within a year of seeing the virus and seeing its sequence, several companies starting with Pfizer and Moderna had vaccines that have proven to be incredibly effective."

He added that until the country gets "those vaccine numbers up close to 80 percent, we're still going to have significant pockets of disease". 

Gates said when the country returns to some sort of pre-pandemic life he hopes employers will be having conversations on if it will be necessary to make workers come into the office every day versus every couple of days. 

"I wrote 25 years ago that said digital would centres less important. Certainly, up until the pandemic, I was more than wrong," he said, adding that the virus has since changed how people think in virtual meetings. 

He added that COVID-19 has shaped much of the future workforce through virtual learning and said the new learning opportunities could benefit those in less populated areas. 

He also said the US will be attempting to get itself out of "the deficits"  the virus has created for a "very long time."

The billionaire, who once famously predicted the world was not prepared for a pandemic in early 2015, said climate change would be the next challenge for humanity - a claim he has repeated multiple times. 

"The actual cost of being ready for the next pandemic is not gigantic. If you look at the precautionary measures where we spend on our Defense Budget, this won’t be more than about 1 percent of that," he said. The highest expenses, he predicted, will come from future efforts to combat climate change.

"The lead time to fix [climate change] is far, far longer than it is to invent a vaccine," he said. 

"Because here with climate, we have an installed base with how we do power generation, with how we do cement and steel, with how we power our cars and planes and trucks, and every one of those things has to change to a green approach. And when we first go and do that, the extra cost … it's dramatically more expensive."

He later said innovation in green energy products will help in a reduction of those costs. 

The billionaire's divorce proceedings with Melinda formally got underway last week. A Washington state judge approved a motion that more attorneys will be added to the case. 

The famed couple, who have been married for nearly 30 years, made a joint statement earlier in May stating they "no longer believe we can grow together as a couple in the next phase of our lives."

The pair's daughter Jennifer Gates said on Instagram, "It's been a challenging stretch of time for our whole family. I'm still learning how to best support my own process and emotions as well as family members at this time." 

The two plan to remain involved in their philanthropic organisation, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, according to CNET.