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Jeff Cercone
By Jeff Cercone May 5, 2023

Simulation was not prep for a planned 2025 pandemic

If Your Time is short

  • Catastrophic Contagion was a tabletop exercise held October 2022 in Belgium that centered on a fictional, rapidly spreading, deadly virus. The exercise’s goal was preparing government and public health officials to better respond to a crisis.

A 2019 preparedness exercise that involved philanthropist Bill Gates, public health leaders and a fictional coronavirus outbreak came just a few months before a real coronavirus pandemic, which sparked baseless claims that Gates and other global elites had planned COVID-19.

Now a similar preparedness exercise from October has prompted false claims that Gates and others are at it again, this time planning a far deadlier virus.

A May 5 Instagram post shows side-by-side video clips — one of a podcast host talking about Gates, the Microsoft Corp. co-founder, and his involvement in a 2022 pandemic simulation, and another of a man reacting to what he’s hearing. 

The simulation —  called Catastrophic Contagion: A Global Challenge Exercise — was held Oct. 23, 2022, by the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security, in partnership with the World Health Organization and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, in Brussels, Belgium.

The event included videos of fictional newscasts on which broadcasters discussed a 2025 outbreak of a deadly virus.

"This is the video that Bill Gates put together, along with the team, complete with simulated news reports like this. This is really what they’re preparing for us," Clayton Morris, host of the "Redacted" podcast, said in a Dec. 13, 2022, episode of the podcast that was excerpted in the Instagram video.

The Instagram video shows a simulated newscast about a "Severe Epidemic Enterovirus Respiratory Syndrome," or SEERS. Morris then interjects: "Write this down. That will be the name of it, OK?" 

Morris said 2025 is when we’ll see the virus emerge, and he scoffed at a disclaimer on the video. "It says at the bottom that it’s a fictional scenario, but come on."

The Instagram video was flagged as part of Meta’s efforts to combat false news and misinformation on its News Feed. (Read more about our partnership with Meta, which owns Facebook and Instagram.)

The claim that simulation exercises preparing for a public health emergency are a cover for global elites who are planning future pandemics is one that has resurfaced repeatedly since March 2020, when the COVID-19 pandemic began. It has no basis in fact and has been repeatedly discredited by PolitiFact and other fact-checkers.

And multiple fact-checkers have debunked Morris’ claim about the October 2022 simulation and others like it in recent months. 

Event 201, a similar pandemic exercise involving Gates and Johns Hopkins about a fictional coronavirus outbreak, was held in 2019. PolitiFact debunked several false claims that the event exercise was used to plan the COVID-19 pandemic.

Catastrophic Contagion was described on its website as a "​​teaching and training resource for public health and government officials."

The exercise simulated a series of WHO emergency health advisory board meetings about a fictional pandemic. During the event, participants, including Gates and current and former public health officials from several countries, determined how to respond to a rapidly spreading virus with a higher fatality rate than COVID-19 that disproportionately affected children and young people. Their decisions had to be made with limited information and their choices had serious health, economic and social ramifications, the site’s website said.

In a video on Catastrophic Contagion’s  website, Dr. Lim Poh Lian, director of the High Level Isolation Unit at the National Centre for Infectious Diseases in Singapore, explained why such exercises are helpful.

"Most of us don’t respond well if we face something that’s rare and catastrophic," she said. "It’s almost like inoculating them. Exercises are a form of inoculation for emergencies."

She said gathering the people who must respond to such events and letting them get to know one another and learn to cooperate is beneficial.

We rate the claim that a simulation with a fictional virus shows ‘"what they're preparing for us" in 2025 False. 

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