Places that close for coronavirus could open in 6-10 weeks

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Bill Gates

Adam Galica | CNBC

Microsoft cofounder Bill Gates thinks locations that shut down to avoid major spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus could come back online in one and a half to two and a half months, he wrote in an Ask Me Anything session on the discussion forum Reddit on Wednesday.

Gates has been focused on health for many years as part of his work at the nonprofit Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. The comments come days after Gates said he was leaving the boards of Microsoft, which he cofounded in 1975. and Berkshire Hathaway. He said he wanted to focus more on philanthropy.

“If a country does a good job with testing and ‘shut down’ then within 6-10 weeks they should see very few cases and be able to open back up,” he wrote when someone asked him how long “this” will last. 

He elaborated on what shutting down means in another response. 

“The current phase has a lot of the cases in rich countries. With the right actions including the testing and social distancing (which I call ‘shut down’) within 2-3 months the rich countries should have avoided high levels of infection,” Gates wrote. “I worry about all the economic damage but even worse will be how this will affect the developing countries who cannot do the social distancing the same way as rich countries and whose hospital capacity is much lower.”

He said that people should remain calm despite the circumstances, in response to a question about what Americans can do to help other others in the country.

Gates has answered people’s questions on Reddit several times before. Last year, after a person asked him to identify the top threat of humanity, he pointed to major unlikely incidents, including a pandemic.

“This is the 100th anniversary of the Spanish flu and if it came back the amount of travel would make it spread faster than it did last time,” he wrote. 

In recent weeks people have rediscovered a TED Talk Gates gave in which he talked about how the world could do more to be prepared for an outbreak. He brought that up in one response, after someone asked what people could do to be more prepared for the next one.

“We need to have the ability to scale up diagnostics, drugs and vaccines very rapidly,” Gates wrote. “The technologies exist to do this well if the right investments are made. Countries can work together on this. We did create CEPI = Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovation which did some work on vaccines but that needs to be funded at higher level to have the standby manufacturing capacity for the world.”

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