- As the coronavirus outbreak grows, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is giving $US100 million in funding for frontline responders, prevention measures, and treatment efforts around the world.
- The foundation previously said it would spend $US10 million, but significantly upped the figure on Wednesday.
- The majority of the funds are earmarked for vaccine research.
- Bill Gates has been warning about the risk of a pandemic disease for years, though this outbreak isn’t considered a pandemic yet.
- Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories .
As the novel coronavirus continues to spread around the world, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation announced on Wednesday that it is contributing $US100 million toward the fight to contain the outbreak.
“The funding will help strengthen detection, isolation and treatment efforts; protect at-risk populations; and develop vaccines, treatments and diagnostics,” the foundation said in a press release.
The foundation previously pledged to spend $US10 million to boost efforts to address the outbreak, so the new figure includes that sum, though it’s a significant jump.
Of the total, $US60 million will fund diagnostics, treatments, and vaccines; $US20 million is going to technical assistance for frontline responders like healthcare providers in affected areas; and $US20 million is earmarked for the development of prevention systems in Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia.
Most of the money will be distributed to partners that the Gates Foundation already works closely with, such as the World Health Organisation and the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (CEPI), which focuses on developing new vaccines to prevent and contain disease epidemics.
The new coronavirus was first reported in the central Chinese city of Wuhan at the end of December. Since then, it has claimed at least 494 lives and reached 25 other countries. Nearly 25,000 people have gotten sick. China has halted transportation in Wuhan and many other cities, effectively putting nearly 50 million people on lockdown.
For the latest updates to the case total, death toll, and travel information, see Business Insider’s live updates here.
Where the Gates Foundation’s $US100 million will go
The Gates Foundation focuses mostly on improving global health and fighting poverty. It’s one of the largest private philanthropic foundations in the world, with a $US46.8 billion endowment.
The $US60 million going towards vaccine research will be distributed to public and private groups, including public-health institutions and biotech companies.
“If 2019-nCoV transmission continues for several months or more, safe and effective vaccines and therapeutics will be needed to help sustain long-term approaches to disease control and to prevent severe disease and deaths,” the foundation said in its press release.
The $US20 million for detection and treatment will be split among the World Health Organisation (WHO) and several public-health authorities in China, including China’s National Health Commission and the Chinese Centre for Disease Control and Prevention.
The WHO has requested $US675 million in global contributions.
The last $US20 million is meant to strengthen prevention measures being implemented in countries with at-risk populations, specifically in Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia.
Money going to the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, specifically, is for “technical support to implement the screening and treatment of suspected cases, laboratory confirmation of 2019-nCoV diagnoses, and the safe isolation and care of identified cases,” the foundation said in its press release.
“Our commitment to the Africa CDC is part of a broader effort to help strengthen the global response to the novel coronavirus outbreak,” a foundation spokesperson told Business Insider.
No African countries have reported confirmed cases of the new coronavirus, but experts warn that the risk is high.
“We don’t know what sort of damage this virus could do if it were spread in a country with a weaker health system,” WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said last week when he declared the outbreak a public-health emergency. “We must act now to help countries prepare for that possibility.”
Bill Gates has been warning about a pandemic for years
The coronavirus outbreak is not yet considered a pandemic, but Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told The New York Times ” it almost certainly is going to be a pandemic.”
In his 2017 article, Gates wrote: “When the next pandemic strikes, it could be another catastrophe in the annals of the human race. Or it could be something else altogether. An extraordinary triumph of human will.”
The following year, Gates said in a presentation that he thinks the world’s “sense of urgency is lacking” when it comes to preparing for biological threats.
“The world needs to prepare for pandemics in the same serious way it prepares for war,” he said at the time.
The Gates Foundation has helped fund the CEPI, which was founded after the Ebola epidemic in sub-Saharan Africa in 2014. The group is working on a vaccine for the new coronavirus.
The Gates Foundation also helped fund research that simulated a worst-case coronavirus pandemic a few months ago. Eric Toner, a researcher at the Johns Hopkins Centre for Health Security, found that the hypothetical disease in that simulation could kill 65 million people within 18 months.
China’s response to the coronavirus outbreak
The coronavirus family includes viruses that cause the common cold, pneumonia, and SARS. The novel coronavirus so far appears to be more contagious but less deadly than SARS.
After the first cases of the virus were reported to the WHO, the Chinese government shuttered the seafood market that some experts think was where the outbreak started.
Chinese authorities have also urged anyone exhibiting symptoms to visit hospitals and all citizens to wear masks.
Officials quickly shared the genetic sequence of the Wuhan coronavirus with scientists around the world, allowing other governments to test and trace potential cases.
The Chinese government has placed nearly 50 million people under quarantine by halting all public transportation within and between regions. The policy started with the city of Wuhan, which has a population of 11 million. Lunar New Year celebrations in Beijing were cancelled, and many tourist attractions throughout China have been closed.
Companies and laboratories around the world are beginning to work on developing a vaccine for the virus, though that could take many months, if not years.
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