Bill Gates defends China over coronavirus response

Bill Gates defends China’s coronavirus response: Billionaire says Beijing ‘did a lot of things right’ at the start of the pandemic and claims criticism of the Communist Party is a ‘distraction’

  • Microsoft co-founder pushed back against criticism of China in CNN interview 
  • US handled COVID-19 response ‘particularly poorly’ compared to others, he said
  • Gates said criticism of China over coronavirus outbreak was a ‘distraction’ 
  • He also defended World Health Organization as a ‘phenomenal’ agency
  • Republicans have accused China of not being transparent about origins of virus
  • Trump this month announced US would halt funding to the UN-run WHO 
  • Decision to halt funding was blasted by Gates’ wife, Melinda Gates
  • Gates’ foundation is second largest donor to WHO behind the United States 
  • Here’s how to help people impacted by Covid-19

It’s too soon to be talking about whether China deserves blame for the coronavirus outbreak and efforts to shift the focus onto Beijing are a ‘distraction,’ according to Bill Gates, who criticized ‘incorrect and unfair things’ said about the Communist-run country.

‘China did a lot of things right at the beginning, like any country where a virus first shows up,’ the Microsoft co-founder told CNN on Sunday.

‘They can look back and say where they missed some things.’

Gates, one of the world’s richest men, said that the US handled its COVID-19 response ‘particularly poorly’ compared to other countries that have minimized the economic damage.

Bill Gates on Sunday defended China and said criticism of the government in Beijing over the coronavirus pandemic is a ‘distraction’

‘You know, some countries did respond very quickly and get their testing in place, and they avoided the incredible economic pain,’ he said.

‘It’s sad that even the US that you would have expected to do this well did it particularly poorly.

‘But it’s not time to talk about that.’

Gates continued: ‘This is the time to take the great science we have, the fact we’re in this together, fixed testing, treatments, and get that vaccine, and minimize the trillions of dollars and many things you that you can’t even dimensionalize, in economic terms, that are awful about the situation we’re in.

‘So, that’s a distraction.

‘I think there’s a lot of incorrect and unfair things said, but it’s not even time for that discussion.’

Unnamed US officials said earlier this month that intelligence agencies were investigating whether coronavirus emerged from a lab in Wuhan.

While the American government has ruled out the conspiracy theory that coronavirus was unleashed by China as a bioweapon, some officials have speculated that the pathogen may have been allowed to escape from the Wuhan Institute of Virology.

China has denied this allegation and international governments and agencies say there is no evidence to support this claim.

The broad scientific consensus holds that SARS-CoV-2, the virus’ official name, originated in bats.

Gates on Sunday also defended the World Health Organization, the United Nations-run agency that has been accused of being soft on China.

Republicans have been critical of China, saying that it has not been transparent with what it knows about the origins of the coronavirus. China’s president, Xi Jinping, is seen above in Xi’an on Wednesday

He called the WHO ‘phenomenal’ and said that the US is highly dependent on it.

‘In the retrospective, we’ll see things that WHO could have done better, just like every actor in this whole picture,’ he said.

‘But the WHO has a strong connection with one country. That country is the United States.

‘The number of CDC people who are there, people who used to work for the CDC, there’s no UN agency more connected to a country than WHO is to CDC.’

As of Sunday, the US Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported 987,590 cases of new coronavirus.

The number of deaths had risen to 55,519. 

China and the WHO have emerged as the biggest targets of criticism from President Trump, Republican Party officials, and their supporters.

Trump this month announced that the US would cease to provide funding to the WHO.

The president said that the organization ‘failed in its basic duty’ in allowing the pandemic to take hold. 

Since stepping down as CEO of Microsoft in 2008, Gates has shifted his focus to philanthropy.

He and his wife together run the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

Melinda Gates this month slammed Trump’s decision to halt funding to the WHO.

Gates also defended the World Health Organization. Gates’ philanthropic foundation which he co-chairs with his wife, Melinda, is the second largest donor to the agency behind the United States. Melinda Gates is seen left alongside her husband on April 18

Announcing an extra $150million of funding from The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to help speed the development of treatments, vaccines and public health measures to tackle the new coronavirus outbreak, Melinda Gates said the WHO was ‘exactly the organization that can deal with this pandemic.’

‘De-funding the WHO makes absolutely no sense during a pandemic. We need a global coordinated response,’ Melinda Gates told Reuters.

‘When you’re in a crisis like this, it’s all hands on deck.’

The Gates Foundation is the second largest donor to the WHO behind the United States. 

Melinda Gates said earlier that cutting WHO funding in a health crisis was ‘as dangerous as it sounds.’

The WHO’s Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said he regretted Trump’s decision. 

He said the organization was still assessing the impact and would ‘try to fill any gaps with partners.’

The philanthropic Gates Foundation’s new $150million commitment brings its COVID-19 funding for the international response to date to $250million, but Gates said any gap left in the WHO’s funding would be very hard for others to fill.

Alongside support for new diagnostics, drugs and vaccines, the Gates money is primarily aimed at helping poorer countries and vulnerable populations handle the oncoming and spreading pandemic and the poverty it will cause.

‘We really as a global community need to address what is now just beginning in African and South Asian countries. We see a huge need, and that’s why we have more than doubled our commitment,’ she said.

Praising what she described as ‘heroic work’ by local leaders and healthcare workers in poorer countries seeking to protect vulnerable communities and slow the spread of COVID-19, Melinda Gates said the world’s response to the pandemic ‘will not be effective unless it is also equitable.’

‘Whenever a health crisis hits like this, it’s the people on the margins that it hits the very most,’ she said. 

‘They’re the ones we need to help to ensure things like cash transfer payments are made and they have access to primary healthcare.’

There are currently no effective vaccines, drugs or other immune system treatments approved to treat COVID-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus.

The $150 million of extra funding adds to an initial $100 million from the Gates Foundation designed to kick-start scientific and public health projects.

Gates said the Foundation is backing eight projects seeking potential solutions for COVID-19 vaccine development and has co-funded enhanced virus detection capacity in Africa as well as contributing to the response in China.   

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