Bill Gates has said the Trump administration allowed COVID-19 to spread “unchecked” throughout the United States during the early stages of the pandemic.
Gates said at the TIME 100 summit in New York on Tuesday that there was a lack of diagnostic testing by the US under former President Donald Trump to detect the early spread of the virus. Gates, the billionaire co-founder of Microsoft and head of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, is an outspoken global health advocate who has often spoken out about pandemics. The philanthropist tested positive for COVID-19 last month.
“If we had done one thing right, which is our ability to conduct diagnostics and then enforce quarantines around those diagnostics, the United States would be more like Australia, which had 10 percent of the deaths, or Taiwan which had 3 percent of the dead had. deaths that we’ve had,” Gates told Time 100.
“A failure to just practice and even understand what group in government was engaged in large-scale diagnostics,” he continued. “…that meant the disease was basically spreading uncontrollably [in] the first few hundred days and beyond, you’re in a very tough shape because of that exponential growth. You can’t do much if you don’t act quickly.”
Australia has had far less than 10 percent of COVID-19 deaths in the US in absolute terms – Australia had 8,802 deaths at the time of publication compared to 1,004,260 in the US. Adjusted for population size, the US has recorded about 306.2 deaths per 100,000 people, according to the Johns Hopkins University Coronavirus Resource Center, compared to 34.5 deaths per 100,000 people in Australia.
Gates added in the interview that COVID “could have been much more deadly” and that “we were just lucky that the case-by-case death rate was about 0.2 percent.”
He is not alone in being critical of the Trump administration’s initial response to the COVID pandemic. The former president said his move to restrict travelers from China to the US in February 2020 was “very early” and “saved many lives,” but an April poll by the Pew Research Center showed that 65 percent of approximately 4,900 US adults polled said Trump was “too slow” in taking big steps to tackle the outbreak.
In recent days and weeks, the seven-day moving average of new COVID cases in the US has hovered around 100,000, after this year’s low of about 25,000 in early April, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
news week contacted Trump’s office for comment.