With the impact of the novel coronavirus significantly increasing day by day, two notable billionaires have extended a helping hand in the name of philanthropy to contribute to relief measures.
It all started on Monday when Bill Gates, Founder – Microsoft Corporation (NASDAQ:MSFT) announced that the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation will be partnering with the University of Washington to develop home-testing kits for COVID-19. As of now, it seems the kits will only be available to residents of Seattle, one of the worst-hit areas in the United States. Despite the announcement, it is unclear when the project is set to commence and when the product is expected to become available for widespread use.
Additionally, the Gates Foundation has also donated $100 million to various public health authorities all over the world to help contain the outbreak.
Soon after Monday’s announcement, the Co-founder and CEO of Facebook Inc. (NASDAQ:FB), Mark Zuckerberg made an announcement that the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative – a philanthropist company founded by Priscilla Chan and her spouse Zuckerberg – will be “funding the acquisition” of two diagnostic machines for COVID-19. The purchase of these FDA approved machines will increase San Francisco’s capacity to diagnose the disease by 4 times.
For this initiative, the CZI is collaborating with the University of California, San Francisco, which is currently the headquarters of COVID-19 testing in the region.
While Gates’ and Zuckerberg’s contributions to public health come at the same time, an earlier venture by the two has been a beacon of light in Cambodia during this tumultuous time in world history.
In the same Facebook post announcing the purchase of the two diagnostic machines. Zuckerberg also mentions how IDSeq, a tool developed by researchers affiliated with Facebook, helped in genomically sequencing the virus in a Cambodian lab.
IDSeq is a software package that can analyze, compare, and track any kind of genetic data by comparing it to data present in a worldwide genetic database called GenBank.
The software was in the Chan and Zuckerberg Biohub, a research center aimed at studying infectious diseases and their prevention.
The software was made more accessible to labs in 10 countries with poor health infrastructure through collaborating with the Gates Foundation. It was through this enterprise, that this software reached Cambodia and helped diagnose the first case of COVID-19 in the country.
Suspicion About Billionaire Philanthropy
While Zuckerberg and Gates have made valuable contributions to public health in the two worst-hit regions in the US by the novel coronavirus, public opinion on the acts have been dichotomous.
Many have praised the billionaires for their apparent generosity, while many have questioned whether these gestures have ulterior motives and the potential to manipulate public policy in their favor. Others still have criticized the government for falling short in their own initiatives, a complaint that arose much before the donations.
The CDC has been criticized for not taking more stringent action against the diagnosis and containment of the COVID-19. It has also come under massive fire by healthcare professionals for not providing enough diagnostic kits to the most affected regions of the country.
According to Forbes, the world’s 10 richest billionaires have taken a collective hit of $38 billion due to the disease, as of Monday.
The novel coronavirus has been declared a global pandemic by the World Health Organization. The disease is believed to be highly contagious and has presented symptoms of different intensities in different demographics. It has claimed up to 4,000 lives, as per recent data and the number of infected persons is estimated to be around 100,000. It has now spread to over 70 countries and has affected the global economy disastrously.