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Gates Foundation invests in coronavirus fight

<em><strong>Headquarters of the Bill &amp; Melinda Gates Foundation in Seattle, Washington. </strong></em> Copyright: lembi / 123RF Stock Photo
Headquarters of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation in Seattle, Washington. 

Efforts to tackle the novel coronavirus outbreak are to receive a US$100 million boost from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. 

The outbreak of novel coronavirus has claimed well in excess of 500 lives in China, where 28,018 confirmed cases have been reported and a further 24,702 cases are suspected at the time of writing. In its donation of US$100 million, the Gates Foundation hopes to “help catalyse a rapid and effective international response” according to its chief executive officer Mark Suzman. 

The World Health Organization (WHO) has designated the novel coronavirus outbreak a Public Health Emergency of International Concern, marking it only the sixth global health incident to earn this label. Suzman said that responses to the novel coronavirus outbreak “should be guided by science, not fear, and it should build on the steps that the World Health Organization has taken to date.” He highlighted the need for “multilateral organisations, national governments, the private sector and philanthropies [to] work together to slow the pace of the outbreak, help countries protect their most vulnerable citizens and accelerate the development of the tools to bring this epidemic under control.” 

The Gates Foundation’s bequeathment of US$100 million includes an earlier pledge of US$10 million to counter the virus’s outbreak last month, reports indicate. The apportionment of the funds will consist of a US$20 million allotment to institutions including the WHO, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the National Health Commission of China and the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention. This will support efforts to detect, isolate, and treat the disease. 

US$60 million will be allocated to international partners for the purposes of research and development pertaining to vaccines and antivirals to be used in treatment of the disease, including the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovation. In addition, US$20 million is reserved to support public health systems in regions perceived to be vulnerable to the epidemic, including south Asia and sub-Saharan Africa. 

In a press release, the Gates Foundation said “recent epidemics, such as the H1N1 influenza pandemic of 2009, have had a disproportionate impact on populations living in extreme poverty, and sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia together account for 85 percent of the estimated 629 million people worldwide who live on less than $1.90 per day. Many people living in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia also have limited access to quality primary health care, which is another factor that increases their health risks.” It expressed hope that its donation would “help public health authorities in these regions strengthen their emergency operations centers, implement effective disease surveillance efforts and improve their capacity to safely isolate and treat confirmed cases.”

Three cases of novel coronavirus have been confirmed in India, all of them students being educated in the Chinese city of Wuhan where the outbreak originated. All three are reported to be in stable condition. The state of Kerala, where all of the confirmed cases have been confirmed, declared a “state calamity” in the wake of the outbreak.

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