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Speaking to a Reddit audience on Wednesday, the billionaire philanthropist said it's possible for a short-term shutdown, but testing is crucial.
"This will vary a lot by country," Gates wrote in response to a question of how long this will go on. "China is seeing very few cases now because their testing and 'shut down' was very effective. 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."
In a wide-ranging interview on the after-effects of the disease known as COVID-19, Gates said the economic impact of the "shut down" will be "large," but if it's done properly, the economy can "eventually ... open back up."
Gates also believes the U.S. will eventually go into lockdown, but added it should have been done sooner. "We are going into lockdown but as usual in retrospect [sic], we should have done it sooner," Gates wrote. "The sooner it is done the easier it is to get the cases down to small numbers."
The 64-year-old Gates added that the testing response by the U.S. is subpar at this point.
"The testing in the US is not organized yet," Gates wrote. "In the next few weeks, I hope the Government fixes this by having a website you can go to to find out about home testing and kiosks. Things are a bit confused on this right now. In Seattle the U of W is providing thousands of tests per day but no one is connected to a national tracking system."
Gates continued: "Whenever there is a positive test it should be seen to understand where the disease is and whether we need to strengthen the social distancing. South Korea did a great job on this including digital contact tracing."
In February, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation committed up to $100 million to help fight against the virus.
"Our foundation is working with all the groups who make diagnostics, therapeutics and vaccines to make sure the right efforts are prioritized," Gates explained. "We want to make sure all countries get access to these tools. We donated $100M in February for a variety of things and we will be doing more. One priority is to make sure that there is enough manufacturing capacity for therapeutics and vaccines. We have other efforts like our education group working to make sure the online resources for students are as helpful as they can be."
Last week, Gates announced that he was stepping down from the board of directors of Microsoft and Berkshire Hathaway to focus on philanthropy.
As of Thursday morning, there have been more than 222,000 reported cases of COVID-19, including at least 9,400 in the U.S.