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Bill Gates blasts Donald Trump over plans to lift lockdowns

Microsoft founder Bill Gates says it will be necessary to live in isolation for at least six weeks. Source: AAP

Bill Gates has blasted the idea of lifting lockdowns by Easter which was floated by Donald Trump this week.

Microsoft co-founder and philanthropist Bill Gates has condemned President Donald Trump’s plan to lift restrictions on the US economy by Easter, saying “we have no choice” but to maintain total isolation.

In an interview with TED, Mr Gates said strict lockdown measures were the only way to control the pandemic that has so far killed more than 1,000 Americans. 

“In the Chinese case, it was like six weeks, so we have to prepare ourselves for that and do it very well,” Mr Gates said. 

"There really is no middle ground, and 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 GDP growth is all that counts.'"

Mr Gates' comments come after US President Donald Trump said on Tuesday he wanted the country to be "open for business" by as soon as Easter in a couple of weeks.

“Our country wasn’t built to be shut down ... We cannot let the cure be worse than the problem itself,” he said.

Mr Gates did not name the president but he told TED, “it's very irresponsible for somebody to suggest that we can have the best of both worlds".

There are now 66,132 confirmed cases in the US, with the World Health Organization warning the country could become the next epicentre of the pandemic.

Former US President Barack Obama has also used Twitter to urge people to think about medical professionals, stay home and practice social distancing. 

When asked what Mr Gates would do if he was in the current president’s shoes, he said he would prioritise health during the pandemic despite understanding its economic impact

“The economic effect of this is really dramatic. Nothing like this has ever happened to the economy in our lifetimes,” Mr Gates said.

“But bringing the economy back... that’s 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 minimise the pain in the diseases-and-death dimension."

Australians must stay at least 1.5 metres away from other people. Indoors, there must be a density of no more than one person per four square metres of floor space.

If you believe you may have contracted the virus, call your doctor (don’t visit) or contact the national Coronavirus Health Information Hotline on 1800 020 080.

If you are struggling to breathe or experiencing a medical emergency, call 000.

SBS is committed to informing Australia’s diverse communities about the latest COVID-19 developments. News and information is available in 63 languages at sbs.com.au/coronavirus

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