CORONAVIRUS

Bill Gates: Slow Turnaround of COVID-19 Tests Makes Them A 'Complete Waste'

The Microsoft co-founder and philanthropist argued that waiting longer than 48 hours for test results is "insane."

In an interview with CNBC on Monday, Bill Gates had sharp criticism for the United State’s COVID-19 testing system, calling it a “complete waste” that requires a much shorter turnaround period to be truly effective.

“You should not reimburse somebody for getting a test that takes more than 48 hours to get a result back,” Gates said on CNBC’s “Squawk Box.” “That test is a complete waste. And to all these numbers about how much we test, the majority is just a complete waste. You need to get [a test] back as soon as possible so that somebody can change their behavior — so that they’re not infecting other people.”

Gates — who has studied infectious diseases and pandemic preparedness as part of his philanthropic work — went on to criticize the current process, in which Americans are often waiting “more than three days, sometimes seven days to get” test results, calling it “insane,” especially for underprivileged communities, which are disproportionately affected by the coronavirus. 

“Nobody should pay one dollar for that,” he said. “You need to prioritize. You need to make sure that ... low-income communities that are most at risk are getting those results back within 24 hours.”

Gates said that increasing the speed of testing is a “near term” goal, while “enabling the therapeutics and vaccines” would be a long-term priority for controlling the spread of the coronavirus.

Gates was more optimistic about a vaccine, predicting that the ongoing development of drugs to combat COVID-19 would likely cause a “substantial death rate reduction by the end of the year.”

The Microsoft co-founder, who is worth more than $112 billion, also chimed in on remote working, guessing that, in the near future, there would be “less long-distance travel” and “more flexibility about jobs.”

Gates has warned for years that a pandemic could “kill more than 30 million people in less than a year,” and in June pledged $1.6 billion dollars to the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization via the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, with $100 million going toward the development of a COVID-19 vaccine.

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