Bill Gates says US 'didn't act fast enough' to avoid compulsory shutdowns as coronavirus cases rise to 50K

The Microsoft co-founder said people should have been put on notice in January and advised a shutdown lasting between six to 10 weeks


                            Bill Gates says US 'didn't act fast enough' to avoid compulsory shutdowns as coronavirus cases rise to 50K
Bill Gates (Getty Images)

At a time when President Donald Trump has indicated at a possible lifting of the social restrictions saying a prolonged lockdown could push people towards depression and suicide, Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates on Tuesday, March 24, said the US missed its chance to avoid compulsory shutdowns because of a late response to the coronavirus pandemic. The US has seen a steady rise in the number of affected people which has crossed 54,000. Over 770 people have lost their lives. 

Speaking during a TED Connects program broadcast online, Gates said: “The US is past this opportunity to control (COVID-19) without shutdown. We did not act fast enough to have an ability to avoid the shutdown.”

“It’s January when everybody should’ve been on notice,” the 64-year-old said.

The virus was first detected in China in December 2019 and then rapidly engulfed other parts of the globe over the past two months. Currently, the outbreak rate in China has slowed down but countries like Italy, Spain, France and the US are struggling to tackle it. Nearly 19,000 lives have been lost worldwide while the number of affected cases is 0.42 million. The US saw a big jump in the number of affected cases in one day and temporary shutdowns of businesses — especially the small ones — have made the economy seriously vulnerable.
 
Trump, meanwhile, has hinted this week that his administration could reopen the economy by Easter (April 12) to minimize the possibility of people going into depression and committing suicide. The president’s outlook though has not been accepted universally by government and health experts. They have warned that by allowing people to return to work will only endanger them and put the health-care system under great stress. 

No middle ground 

Gates acknowledged that self-isolation is not something that will do the economy any good but also conceded at the same time that there is no middle ground at the moment. The business magnate advised a shutdown lasting between six to 10 weeks. 

“It’s very tough to say to people, ‘Hey keep going to restaurants, go buy new houses, ignore that pile of bodies over in the corner, we want you to keep spending because there’s some politician that thinks GDP growth is what counts,’” the philanthropist said. “It’s hard to tell people during an epidemic … that they should go about things knowing their activity is spreading this disease.”

Gates also took a dig at America’s testing capacities saying it was still not creating that capacity and applying it to those who need it. “The testing thing has got to be organized, has got to be prioritized. That is super, super urgent,” he said.

Gates warned of an epidemic in 2015

It may be mentioned here that in his 2015 Ted Talk, Gates warned that the world needs to prepare itself more for an epidemic. He said the world made a huge investment behind nuclear deterrence but very little to prevent an epidemic. 

“We’ve actually invested very little in a system to stop an epidemic. We’re not ready for the next epidemic,” Gates said. On Tuesday, as he referred to his TED Talk, Gates reiterated that “very little was done” but remained optimistic. 

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