‘Shutdown anywhere means shutdown everywhere’: Bill Gates urges US to lockdown entire country to stop coronavirus spread

He says it's a 'recipe for disaster' to only close parts of the country

Danielle Zoellner
Wednesday 01 April 2020 16:43 BST
'Very painful' two weeks ahead for US, Trump says

Microsoft founder and billionaire Bill Gates has called for a nationwide lockdown to combat the spread of the coronavirus.

The philanthropist wrote an op-ed in the Washington Post where he offered up three steps the federal government could take in order to "make up for lost time on Covid-19" after speaking with experts through his work with his charity.

Mr Gates urged the federal government to take a "consistent nationwide approach to shutting down" the country to stop the spread.

"Despite urging from public health experts, some states and counties haven't shut down completely. In some states, beaches are still open; in others, restaurants still serve sit-down meals," he wrote.

"This is a recipe for disaster. Because people can travel freely across state lines, so can the virus. The country's leaders need to be clear: Shutdown anywhere means shutdown everywhere. Until the case numbers start to go down across America - which could take 10 weeks or more - no one can continue business as usual or relax the shutdown. Any confusion about this point will only extend the economic pain, raise the odds that the virus will return, and cause more deaths."

The second point made by Mr Gates was the need for the United States to ramp up its testing across the nation to better determine how the virus was infecting the community.

Testing has been a touchy subject within the government with claims made earlier this week that it was no longer an issue. But state governors, such as Governor Steve Bullock of Montana, have claimed their residents still are unable to receive a Covid-19 test.

But Mr Gates said even if testing increased across the country, there would still need to be a priority of who receives a test first.

"The country needs clear priorities for who is tested," he wrote. "First on the list should be people in essential roles such as healthcare workers and first responders, followed by highly symptomatic people who are most at risk of becoming seriously ill and those who are likely to have been exposed."

The final step to be made by the federal government was to develop a vaccine fast and plan ahead for the production of that vaccine.

"We can start now by building the facilities where these vaccines will be made," Mr Gates wrote. "Because many of the top candidates are made using unique equipment, we'll have to build facilities for each of them, knowing that some won't get used."

He went on to advise against government officials "stoking rumours" about potential treatments for coronavirus because of how it could inundate prescription orders.

"Scientists are working full speed on both; in the meantime, leaders can help by not stoking rumours or panic buying. Long before the drug hydroxychloroquine was approved as an emergency treatment for Covid-19, people started hoarding it, making it hard to find for lupus patients who need it to survive," Mr Gates wrote.

His remarks came after President Donald Trump told Americans on Tuesday the next two weeks would be "very, very painful" as states like New York, New Jersey, Louisiana, and Ohio edge towards their expected apex.

Cases in the US rose to more than 189,000 confirmed infections and 4,090 people have died, according to data from Johns Hopkins.

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