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The Big Short’s Michael Burry says economic shutdown worse than coronavirus, urges Trump to ‘Set America Free’

The doctor-turned-hedge-fund-manager launched into a rant over the past two weeks warning that the business shutdowns may trigger one of the deepest-ever economic slumps in US history
(Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

Michael Burry, well known for his "big short" bet against mortgage-backed securities during the 2008 financial crisis, has been constantly railing against the COVID-19 lockdown on Twitter, insisting the curfews intended to contain the coronavirus outbreak are worse than the disease itself.

The doctor-turned-hedge-fund-manager launched a series of tweets over the past two weeks, echoing the concerns of many that the government lockdown and business shutdowns may trigger one of the deepest-ever economic slumps in America's history. Furthermore, he also suggested the lockdown is not necessary to contain the epidemic.

"If COVID-19 testing were universal, the fatality rate would be less than 0.2%. This is no justification for sweeping government policies, lacking any and all nuance, that destroy the lives, jobs, and businesses of the other 99.8%," Burry tweeted on March 23.

"COVID-19 policy cannot be settled by CYA politicians' career ID docs. Too much hammer/nail and too little common sense. POTUS must reflect the interests of the working class and small business here - the economy cannot crash 30% to save the 0.2%. Set America Free!" he added.

General view of Park Av. from 28 Street uptown after it was announced that some streets will be shut as lockdown continues in response to the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak on March 27, 2020, in New York City. (Getty Images)

Burry has also thrown his support behind possible treatments for COVID-19, such as the much-touted malaria drug hydroxychloroquine, saying they should be made more widely available as soon as possible.

"Prudent plan: 1) Standardize on chloroquine and azithromycin - cheap and available 2) Sick and elderly voluntarily shelter in place. 3) Americans lead their normal lives with extra hand washing and special care if around the elderly. Saving the economy means life, not murder," Burry tweeted on March 24.

And in an email to Bloomberg News, Burry said the "universal stay-at-home" directive is man-made and described it as "the most devastating economic force in modern history."

"It very suddenly reverses the gains of underprivileged groups, kills and creates drug addicts, beats and terrorizes women and children in violent now-jobless households, and more. It bleeds deep anguish and suicide," he added.

Bloomberg's Reed Steven asked Burry what he thought was the best way to get things back to normal.

“I would lift stay-at-home orders except for known risk groups," he responded. "We already know certain conditions that are predictive of severe disease. Especially since young healthy lungs tend to be resistant, I would let the virus circulate in the population that is not likely to get a severe disease from it. This is the only path that comes close to balancing the needs of all groups."

U.S. President Donald Trump pauses during a news briefing on the latest development of the coronavirus outbreak in the U.S. at the James Brady Press Briefing Room at the White House on March 18, 2020, in Washington, DC. (Getty Images)

"Vaccines are not coming anytime soon, so natural immunity is the only way out for now," Burry insisted. "Every day, every week in the current situation is ruining innumerable lives in a criminally unjust manner.”

He also highlighted the challenges of developing a COVID-19 vaccine but offered hope at the same time.

“When it comes to vaccines, coronaviruses are not known for imparting enduring immunity, and this will be one big challenge," Burry noted. "It seems the genetic code is relatively conserved, and this will help the development of the vaccine. But we’re still looking at the end of the year. In the meantime, the world is an innovative place, and I expect many effective treatments — both new and repurposed — shortly. The question then will be regulation, expense and availability.”

“Medically, the new normal will be the old normal. As long as innovation continues, medicine will conquer everything in our way," he added.