Bill Gates held a Reddit Ask Me Anything (AMA) on Wednesday (March 18) about the coronavirus outbreak.
Gates’ philanthropic organisation, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, has long focused on fighting infectious diseases.
Gates was asked how long lockdown measures might go on for, and the billionaire said that, if done right, they could last six to ten weeks.
The billionaire and philanthropist Bill Gates has long warned that a pandemic could be on the way, and he’s called the novel coronavirus a “once-in-a-century pathogen.”
In a Reddit AMA on Wednesday, the Microsoft founder said that, with effective safeguards, countries could end their lockdowns in as little as six weeks.
A Reddit user asked Gates how long the coronavirus crisis would go on. “This will vary a lot by country,” he wrote. “China is seeing very few cases now because their testing and ‘shut down’ was very effective. If a country does a good job with testing and ‘shut down’ then within 6-10 weeks they should see very few cases and be able to open back up.”
On Thursday, China announced that for the first time since the beginning of the outbreak in December, it had no new domestic cases.
One worry about prolonged and strict lockdowns is that countries will see a second wave of infections once people are free to leave their homes and travel.
Gates said China had not seen a resurgence of the virus. “They did their ‘shut down’ and were able to reduce the number of cases,” he wrote. “They are testing widely so they see rebounds immediately and so far there have not been a lot. They avoided widespread infection.”
The caveat, of course, is that countries would need to enforce effective lockdown measures.
Wuhan, the Chinese city where the outbreak originated, is emerging from a two-month lockdown. Italy is under total lockdown, and the UK has encouraged people to stay at home and avoid unnecessary travel and socializing. In the US, San Francisco has ordered people to “shelter in place” until April 7, meaning citizens have to stay at home except for essential travel, like buying food.
Gates said on Reddit that testing for the virus in the US was “not organized yet.”
“In the next few weeks I hope the Government fixes this by having a website you can go to to find out about home testing and kiosks,” he said. “Things are a bit confused on this right now.”
The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, which has long focused on fighting infectious diseases, has pledged $100 million to fight the virus, including through developing at-home coronavirus testing kits.