Bill Gates: Major coronavirus crisis can still be averted with 'shut down'
Microsoft co-founder and philanthropist Bill Gates believes it's still possible for countries to contain the coronavirus outbreak to a small percentage of its population with the right "shut down" measures.
There are more than 200,000 confirmed cases of the virus across 168 countries and territories, with more than 8700 deaths. Australia has more than 700 confirmed cases of the virus, with six deaths.
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Gates has devoted much of his time in recent years studying and funding global health efforts to address inequality through the charity he runs with his wife.
The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has committed up to $100 million to help the global response to the pandemic as well as an additional $5 million for his home state of Washington.
On Wednesday, Gates participated in an Ask-Me-Anything Q&A on Reddit, where he answered questions from the public on coronavirus vaccines, social distancing and the United States' response.
When questioned over how many people globally were likely to develop the life-threatening virus, Gates pointed to Taiwan, Hong Kong and Singapore as examples of countries who had successfully contained the virus.
"Even China will stay at a low level of their population (less than .01 per cent so far). Thailand is another exemplar," he wrote.
"If a country does a good job with testing and 'shut down', then within six to 10 weeks they should see very few cases and be able to open back up.
"Unfortunately, in poorer countries doing social distancing is much harder. People live in close proximity and need to work to get their food so there could be countries where the virus will spread broadly."
Gates identified targeted, fast testing and effective social distancing measures as the two key factors which will determine the severity of each nation's outcome.
The comments come as the state of California issued a statewide 'stay-at-home' order on its 40 million citizens today, after confirmed cases in the United States doubled in two days.
Gates was also critical of the United States' approach to testing, saying it unfairly disadvantaged the most vulnerable.
He proposed creating a national database, which would track confirmed cases and predict potential outbreaks – an approach he said had helped South Korea get onto of their outbreak.
"We need to democratise and scale the testing system," he said.
"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."