According to the billionaire, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation — which has an endowment of more than $40 billion — is shifting its attention away from diseases such as malaria and focusing entirely on COVID-19.
“We’ve taken an organization that was focused on HIV and malaria and polio eradication, and almost entirely shifted it to work on this,” he said.
“This has the foundation’s total attention.”
Gates explained that his organization is fully dedicated to tackling the coronavirus pandemic.
“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,” he said.
The philanthropist has supported the federal government’s efforts to curb the spread of COVID-19, but he has been critical of some of President Donald Trump’s decision. Notably, Gates criticized Trump when he promised to halt funding to the World Health Organization (WHO), describing the move as “dangerous.”
On Sunday, he expressed hope that the commander in chief will change his mind about the agency, suggesting that he is confident Trump will come to the conclusion that the funding needs to be increased.
The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has already raised its total commitment to fighting coronavirus to $250 million, with the majority of funding being pledged for initiatives in Africa and Asia. However, the foundation’s decision to dedicate the bulk of its resources to fighting COVID-19 “has distracted a lot of critical work in many, many areas,” the philanthropist said.
Gates also discussed the economic crisis caused by the coronavirus pandemic, saying that he believes the COVID-19 outbreak will cost “tens of trillions of dollars” and that some countries won’t recover from it for years.
Gates has long warned that the world is not ready to handle a pandemic. With COVID-19, some of his worst predictions appear to be coming true. In an interview earlier this month, he argued that lockdown and social distancing measures will have to continue in some form until a vaccine is developed.
“It is fair to say things won’t go back to truly normal until we have a vaccine that we’ve gotten out to basically the entire world,” he told Fox News.
In an interview this week, Gates appeared more hopeful. Speaking for The Today Show, he said that there are encouraging signs and that a vaccine could be available in 18 to 24 months. He noted, however, that the United States needs to change its approach to testing in order to curb the spread of the virus.