Bill Gates blasts US response to COVID-19: 'Most governments listen to their scientists, not attack them'

Mike Cohen/Getty Images for The New York Times; Samantha Lee/Business Insider
  • In a CNBC interview on Wednesday, Bill Gates said the US was lagging behind other countries on testing and mask-wearing.
  • The Microsoft cofounder also accused the US government of attacking its top scientists.
  • “Most governments take advantage of their scientists and listen to them. They don’t undermine them and attack them,” Gates said.
  • It was “mind-blowing” that coronavirus tests in the US take longer to process than in many other countries, he added.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Microsoft cofounder Bill Gates slammed the US government’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic on Wednesday.

The US had attacked its scientific experts, fallen behind other countries on testing, and failed to get its citizens to wear masks, he said.

Many countries have “done very, very well” on getting people to change their behaviour — but not the US, he said.

Testing results take longer to come back in the US than in other countries, Gates said, which he described as “mind-blowing.”

“Our response in most respects has not been very good. And we would have expected it to be good,” the billionaire said in a CNBC interview on Wednesday.

“Mask compliance in the United States is quite poor. And yet the cost of the mask and the productivity lost from [not wearing] the mask, it’s quite an intervention,” he said.

He added that “most governments take advantage of their scientists and listen to them. They don’t undermine them and attack them.”

Gates did not name US President Donald Trump or any scientist by name.

He said the fact that some countries had performed better than others on testing and mask-wearing was a “purely technical thing, not a political thing.”

Trump had a habit of not wearing a mask before his COVID-19 infection — and this may have both exposed him to the coronavirus in the first place and raised his risk of developing a more severe infection, experts told Business Insider on October 3.

Gates’ comments came after the top US infectious-disease expert, Dr. Anthony Fauci, slammed the Trump campaign on Monday for using his words out of context and without his consent in a recent political ad. This amounted to harassment, he said.

Wearing masks and washing hands are our most important tools, Gates said

Gates, whose charitable organisation, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, has committed more than $US100 million to fight the outbreak, said that social behaviour changes such as wearing masks and washing hands were the most important tools for controlling COVID-19 until “therapeutics or vaccines get out there in big numbers.”

The Gates Foundation, which works to tackle complex global health challenges, teamed up with Wellcome and Mastercard in March to commit $US125 million in funding to companies developing treatments for COVID-19.

US drugmaker Eli Lilly announced on October 8 that it had partnered with the foundation to supply its COVID-19 antibody therapy to low- and middle-income countries. The company paused its antibody drug trial Tuesday over safety concerns.

Coronavirus has claimed more than 200,000 lives in the US, and infected 7.89 million people.

On Wednesday, it emerged that the White House was warming to a “herd immunity” strategy of letting some people catch the virus — an idea the World Health Organisation believes is “unethical.”

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