Bill Gates, the billionaire co-founder of Microsoft and outspoken global health advocate, offered a grim appraisal of the global coronavirus pandemic during a recent CNN town hall. Among many things, Gates cited poor leadership and management of the pandemic from the U.S. government, saying that he is, overall, “pretty disappointed” with the country’s handling of the outbreak.

“Because our behavior and our contact-tracing is not working well [in the U.S.], we continue to have very large case spread,” Gates said. “And it is embarrassing.”

In Gates’ estimation, one of the biggest causes of the massive spread of COVID-19 in the U.S. has been indifference or outright hostility towards important health protocols, such as wearing masks, practicing social distancing, and self-isolating.

“The range of behaviors in the U.S. right now, some people are being very conservative in what they do, and some people are basically ignoring the epidemic, it’s huge,” Gates said. “We’ve worn out people’s patience… Some people almost feel like it’s a political thing, which is unfortunate.”

With several states attempting to reopen in the wake of the outbreak’s first wave, new surges in infections are striking in states like Texas, Florida, North Carolina, and South Carolina. With the infection rate expected to get worse in the fall, Gates urged Americans not to let up and to continue safe practices throughout the summer.

“We know now that we’re benefiting from the summer,” Gates explained. “The infection will get worse in the fall, so all the more reason not to get completely lax in our behavior.”

Through his philanthropic organization, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Gates has donated $300 million to help fight the coronavirus pandemic. His contributions rank highly amongst the personal donations made by the ultra-wealthy, surpassed only by Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey, who pledged $1 billion to relief efforts, nearly 22% of his personal net worth.

Bill Gates's vaccine programmes on the continent have long provided ample fodder for speculation Bill Gates's vaccine programmes on the continent have long provided ample fodder for speculation Photo: AFP / MARCO LONGARI