Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates on Tuesday pushed back against proposals floated over the last two days by leaders like President Trump, to reopen the U.S. economy despite the Covid-19 coronavirus outbreak.
“We need to shut down so that the worst case that was happening in [Wuhan, China] or Northern Italy, that we avoid that,” Gates said in an interview on the TED Connects program.
Asked about suggestions being floated in the U.S. about relaxing social distancing measures to avoid severe economic damage, Gates said there is “no middle ground” between the virus and the cost to businesses.
“It’s very tough to say to people, ‘Hey, keep going to restaurants, go buy new houses, ignore that pile of bodies over in the corner. We want you to keep spending because there’s maybe a politician who thinks [gross domestic product] GDP growth is what really counts,’” Gates said, adding that a shutdown may need to remain in place for six to 10 weeks.
Trump said Tuesday during a Fox News town hall that he hoped to have the country “opened up” by Easter.
“You can destroy a country this way, by closing it down, where it literally goes from being the most prosperous,” Trump said. “I would love to have the country opened up and just raring to go by Easter.”
Gates, who did not mention Trump by name in the interview, said that “it’s very irresponsible for somebody to suggest that we can have the best of both worlds.”
He said later in the interview that “bringing the economy back” was more of a “reversible thing than bringing people back to life.”
“So we’re going to take the pain in the economic dimension — huge pain — in order to minimize the pain in the diseases-and-death dimension,” Gates, who left the board of Microsoft earlier this month, said.