Bill Gates, the founder of Microsoft Corp and billionaire philanthropist, has taken the US COVID-19 testing strategy to the cleaners. He feels that the problems are massive and unfair, apart from lacking in transparency.
There is hardly any person in this world who is more qualified than Bill Gates to evaluate the various aspects of fighting this pandemic, especially COVID-19 testing. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has funded COVID-19 research in a big way. USD 350 million has been earmarked by the Foundation for research and setting up manufacturing capacity to help in distributing a vaccine globally. Gates has also invested heavily in vaccine development work by AstraZeneca Plc, Johnson & Johnson, and Novavax Inc.
Gates is particularly peeved with the efforts of the US government, which he says is not doing enough. Even though President Trump has gone on record in an interview to say that testing in the country is “the best ever, the best in the world,” Gates is skeptical about the statement.
He has cited the example of commercial labs unable to cope with the numbers and often delaying the test results to the detriment of a potential COVID-19 positive patient. That means that people are paying the same for both quick and delayed results. Further, the rich and the influential have access to “quick turnaround tests,” making the testing system very unfair for a majority of the population.
Delayed testing comes with its many pitfalls and public health officials have confirmed this. People who have been tested and get positive results to know about their condition after three or four days. Meanwhile, they would have interacted with a lot of people, maybe even taken a vacation at the beach. When the results ultimately come through, it becomes a massive task for the government to trace all their contacts to test and enforce isolation.
Surprisingly, it is not an easy task to get the government to improve the testing process. They will not admit that a lot of improvement needs to be done and instead insist on how great they are doing.
Gates offers a solution to this problem. Currently, labs are reimbursed for the number of tests done and not on the time the results are given. Reimbursement, he says, should be denied if the test results take three or more days.