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Countries may reopen in 6-10 weeks: Bill Gates

Bill Gates has put a timeline on the crisis. Image: Getty

Countries that respond appropriately to the coronavirus outbreak could reopen within six to 10 weeks, billionaire and pandemic researcher Bill Gates has said.

The Microsoft founder funds extensive research into global pandemics through the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and last year ran a simulation of a coronavirus outbreak. He has also long warned of the dangers a global pandemic pose to both public health and the global economy. 

Now, he predicts countries that implement “shut down” protocols and employ strong testing mechanisms will “see very few cases” within six to 10 weeks and be able to open back up. 

Responding to questions on Reddit, the US$96 billion man said the length of the coronavirus, or  Covid-19, crisis will “vary a lot by country”. 

“China is seeing very few cases now because their testing and ‘shut down’ was very effective.”

Continuing, he said China hasn’t yet seen a major rebound in cases due to strong border controls stopping the virus from reentering the nation. 

“Hong Kong, Taiwan and Singapore have all done a good job on this. If we do it right the rebounds should be fairly small in numbers,” he added. 

Responding to claims the virus could continue in a significant way for 18 months, Gates said there are several models to look at the crisis. 

“We need to be humble about what we know but it does appear that social distancing with testing can get the cases down to low levels,” he said. 

But the biggest concern is developing countries. While wealthier countries should be reasonably clear within three months if they implement shut downs, developing countries will be dealt a severe health and financial blow. 

“I worry about all the economic damage but even worse will be how this will affect the developing countries who cannot do the social distancing the same way as rich countries and whose hospital capacity is much lower,” Gates said.

But the global economy will recover eventually.

“The economic impact of the ‘shut down’ will be large but if it is done well (including the testing piece which I keep mentioning) eventually we can open back up.”

‘Digital certificates’: The future beyond Covid-19

While a vaccine will take around 18 months, Gates predicts that once such a vaccine is available, those who have recovered or been tested will receive “some digital certificate” to prove their health. 

That particular prediction drew alarm. 

“This sounds concerning. Why would I need one of these? What if I don't have one?” one Redditor responded. 

“To whom do you expect we would show these personal ‘digital certificates’? What type of situation would these be used under? Travel, supplies, loans, employment? Is this something you are advocating?” another queried.

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