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Coronavirus: Bill Gates calls for global agreements on masks, treatments and vaccines

The Telegraph logo The Telegraph 11/04/2020 Paul Nuki
a close up of a man wearing glasses and looking at the camera: Bill Gates, Co-Chairman of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and founder or Microsoft - EFF PACHOUD/AFP via Getty Images © EFF PACHOUD/AFP via Getty Images Bill Gates, Co-Chairman of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and founder or Microsoft - EFF PACHOUD/AFP via Getty Images

Microsoft founder Bill Gates has issued an urgent call for world leaders to come together to fight Covid-19 and ensure that protective equipment, new treatments and vaccines are equitably distributed.

The move comes amid fears that a vacuum in global leadership will prolong the pandemic and greatly magnify its human and economic toll.

Writing in The Sunday Telegraph, Mr Gates, calls for a “global approach” to fighting the disease and warns if the virus is left to spread through developing nations unhindered it will rebound and hit richer nations in subsequent waves.

“The virus doesn’t care about borders” he writes. “Even if wealthy nations succeed in slowing the disease over the next few months, Covid-19 could return if the pandemic remains severe enough elsewhere. 

“It is likely only a matter of time before one part of the planet re-infects another”.

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Two weeks ago, a virtual-meeting of the G20 broke up without agreement after the US insisted on references to “Wuhan virus” being included in any communiqué.

This stands in contrast to the role the international body played in the 2008 financial crisis, when its coordinated actions are credited with mitigating the impact of the crash.

Related: Coronavirus crisis around the world (Photos)

Mr Gates - who has long warned of a pandemic - has called on world leaders to reconvene and agree three actions now.

“The first is making sure the world’s resources for fighting this pandemic are allocated effectively - things like masks, gloves, and diagnostic tests”, he says.

“I’m a big believer in capitalism - but some markets simply don’t function properly in a pandemic, and the market for lifesaving supplies is an obvious example”. 

Secondly, he calls on leaders to commit the necessary research and development funding to develop a vaccine. 

There are “at least eight potential vaccines for Covid-19” in development but a further $2 billion is needed if they are to be delivered within 18 months.

“That would be the fastest humans have ever gone from seeing a brand new pathogen to developing a vaccine against it,” he says.

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Last, Gates calls on the G20 to think now about how vaccines will be manufactured and distributed now.

“We aren’t sure which vaccines will be the most effective yet, and each requires unique technology to make. That means nations need to invest in many different kinds of manufacturing facilities now, knowing that some will never be used. Otherwise, we’ll waste months after the lab develops an immunization, waiting for the right manufacturer to scale up,” he writes.

There are concerns that “vaccine nationalism” could grip the world unless international agreements are made ahead of their arrival on how they will be distributed.

Now may be an opportune moment to broker an “equitable distribution” agreement because no nation knows who will produce a vaccine first.

“Most G20 countries do not have vaccine manufacturing capacity and no country knows for sure it will have that facility for Covd-19”, said Dr Richard Hatckett, CEO of the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations (Cepi). 

The former foreign secretary, Lord William Lord Hague, also called for global action. Writing in The Telegraph on Monday he warned of an “extraordinary absence of global leadership” and urged politicians to “champion a global framework to solve the world’s problems together”. 

Todaythe Department of International Development pledged a further £200m of UK aid to help tackle the coronavirus pandemic and prevent a second wave of the virus. 

It brings the total amount of UK aid committed to the global fight against coronavirus to £744 million - one of the largest contributions worldwide.

Stay at home to stop coronavirus spreading - here is what you can and can't do. If you think you have the virus, don't go to the GP or hospital, stay indoors and get advice online. Only call NHS 111 if you cannot cope with your symptoms at home; your condition gets worse; or your symptoms do not get better after seven days. In parts of Wales where 111 isn't available, call NHS Direct on 0845 46 47. In Scotland, anyone with symptoms is advised to self-isolate for seven days. In Northern Ireland, call your GP.

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