Apr 26, 2020 - Health

Gates Foundation will focus "total attention" on coronavirus crisis

In this image, Bill Gates sits in a suit and talks

Bill Gates at the 2019 New Economy Forum in Beijing, China, in November 2019. Photo: Hou Yu/China News Service/VCG via Getty Images

Bill Gates told the Financial Times in an interview that his foundation will focus all of its attention on the coronavirus pandemic, in addition to the $250 million in direct funding that it has already pledged.

Why it matters: The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has an endowment of over $40 billion. Gates argues the power of its human resources and expertise will be far greater in fighting the pandemic than cash, but cautions that other public health work may suffer.

What he's saying: Gates expects global economic activity to be "greatly reduced" for years — possibly in the tens of trillions of dollars — and that drug campaigns to treat polio and measles will suffer as a result of the world's focus on the coronavirus.

  • “We’ve taken an organization that was focused on HIV and malaria and polio eradication and almost entirely shifted it to work on this,” Gates said. “This has the foundation’s total attention. Even our non-health related work, like higher education and K-12 [schools], is completely switched around to look at how you facilitate online learning.”
  • “This emergency has distracted a lot of critical work in many, many areas. Fewer people able to show up for routine immunization or supply chains for immunization not working well, that’s hundreds of thousands of deaths right there. If we can’t keep getting malaria treatments out effectively, that’s a huge rebound in malaria.”

Worth noting: Gates told the FT that he does not believe the Trump administration will ultimately withdraw funding from the World Health Organization, saying, “I think he will do deep analysis and decide that they probably should get more money, not less money."

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