COVID-19: Bill Gates says countries that test for coronavirus will bounce back in weeks

Hemani Sheth Mumbai | Updated on March 19, 2020

As the number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 surge across the globe affecting global economies and healthcare systems, former Microsoft chief Bill Gates on Wednesday said that countries can bounce back from the pandemic if they get the testing process right.

The tech mogul on Wednesday took to social media platform Reddit and organized an “Ask me Anything” session to address concerns of Reddit users related to the COVID-19 pandemic. He was joined remotely by Dr Trevor Mundel, who leads the Gates Foundation’s global health work, and his chief scientific adviser Dr Niranjan Bose.

“Over the years I’ve had a chance to study diseases like influenza, Ebola, and now COVID-19—including how epidemics start, how to prevent them, and how to respond to them. The Gates Foundation has committed up to $100 million to help with the COVID-19 response around the world, as well as $5 million to support our home state of Washington,” Gates wrote on the platform.

“Ask us anything about COVID-19 specifically or epidemics and pandemics more generally,” he added.

Covid-19 impact on economy

When asked about the repercussions of the current coronavirus pandemic on the economy and the overall after-effects of the situation in general by users, the Microsoft co-founder repeatedly emphasized upon testing and said that countries that get the testing phase and the containment right could soon bounce back economically and otherwise.

“The economic impact of the "shut down" will be large but if it is done well (including the testing piece which I keep mentioning) eventually we can open back up,” he said.

"If a country does a good job with testing and shut down, then within 6-10 weeks it should see very few cases and be able to open back up," Gates said responding to another Reddit user.

He further stated that testing needed to be organized and sped up for better containment.

“We need to democratize and scale the testing system by having a CDC website that people go to and enter their situation. Priority situations should get tested within 24 hours. This is very possible since many countries have done it. Health care workers, for example, should have priority. Elderly people should have priority. We will be able to catch up on the testing demand within a few weeks of getting the system in place. Without the system we don't know what is missing - swabs, reagents etc..” he said.

He further stated that it will be the developing countries that would face the worst consequences of the outbreak due to limited resources.

"The current phase has a lot of cases in rich countries. With the right actions including the testing and social distancing (which I call "shut down") within 2-3 months, the rich countries should have avoided high levels of infection. I worry about all the economic damage but even worse will be how this will affect the developing countries who cannot do the social distancing the same way as rich countries and whose hospital capacity is much lower," Gates wrote.

He also mentioned the efforts taken by his foundation, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to help curb the outbreak.

Gates said: “Our foundation is working with all the groups who make diagnostics, therapeutics and vaccines to make sure the right efforts are prioritized. We want to make sure all countries get access to these tools. We donated $100m in February for a variety of things and we will be doing more. One priority is to make sure that there is enough manufacturing capacity for therapeutics and vaccines. We have other efforts like our education group working to make sure the online resources for students are as helpful as they can be.”

Earlier this month, Gates stepped down from the board of Microsoft after dedicating 45 years to the company to invest more time in philanthropy.

Published on March 19, 2020

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