Berkshire Hathaway Chairman Warren Buffett said Monday he has spoken to fellow billionaire and Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates about efforts to contain the spread and impact of the coronavirus.
“Now what they hope to get is a universal flu vaccine, but that’s a long way off. It isn’t impossible. I mean I asked my own – my own science advisor is Bill Gates, so I talk to him, I call him,” Buffett told “Squawk Box” host Becky Quick. “I talked to him in the last few days about it and he’s bullish on the long-term outlook for a universal prevention of it.”
The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, one of the largest private foundations in the world, is actively working to combat the impact of the coronavirus as part of its broader effort to promote global health, said Buffett, who along with the Gateses is one of the foundation’s three trustees.
With respect to Berkshire, Buffett said several of its businesses were feeling an impact from the deadly virus, which has now spread beyond China and threatens to disrupt the global economy.
He said his China-based Dairy Queen franchises were seeing little to no business, and he noted Apple’s recent announcement that the company would fall short of its first-quarter guidance because of recent of store closures in China and supply-chain disruptions. Berkshire holds 5.6% of Apple’s stock.
“I have heard that the summer is not likely to cause the end of this,” Buffett told CNBC.
He also appeared to suggest that early efforts to contain the illness have had limited success as the virus continues to spread to new countries.
“The Gates Foundation is very active in trying to be helpful on this, and Bill says the CDC is the best in the world,” Buffett said. “And we’ve got terrific resources in this country, but a pandemic is a pandemic.”
The investing icon’s comments came amid reports that the coronavirus outbreak in countries outside China has worsened, especially South Korea and Italy, which reported a spike in the number of confirmed cases in recent days.
South Korea raised its coronavirus alert to the “highest level” over the weekend, with the latest spike in numbers bringing the total infected there to more than 750.
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