Reflecting on the ongoing Coronavirus pandemic and the world’s response to one of the biggest medical emergencies, Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates said that there a few things that could have been done differently to reduce the impact. For one, he said, we collectively, should not have underestimated the importance of face masks.
Gates was discussing the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation’s annual Goalkeepers Report when he said that even as the world grapples to deal with the pandemic, there are deniers who are quick to believe conspiracy theories and choose not to wear masks although it could save their lives.
According to a report by CNBC, Gates said that even the medical community is now beginning to understand the importance of masks. He said that apart from coronavirus, all respiratory diseases that exist are mostly transmitted through cough droplets. “We underestimated the value of face masks,” he said.
As per regulations by the World Health Organisation and the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention, wearing face masks (the right kind) and sanitising and washing your hands frequently are the only ways of warding of the SARS-COV2 virus which causes coronavirus. As of now, there is no vaccine or definite cure for the infection which has already claimed millions of lives worldwide.
For a detailed guideline on how coronavirus spreads, and why you need to start wearing masks, click here.
In India and numerous other countries, wearing face masks have been made mandatory in public places and especially where social distancing measures cannot be followed.
Yet, there remain pandemic deniers who have called the mask rules imposed by governments “oppressive”, an “attack on democracy” and other bizarre conspiracy theories.
Gates said that it took a while to get the message out on masks. “Some political leaders helped with that, some political leaders did not,” he further added.
While Gates refused to take names, one cannot help but think that he was referring to US President Donald Trump who, on more than one occasion, has turned up at public events without masks. He has also been seen asking journalists to take off masks at press briefings. In fact, Trump was seen wearing a mask in public for the first time in July, months after the pandemic started, months after the WHO and CDC issued advisories on face coverings. Yet, it was almost as if he did not want anyone to know he was wearing a mask!
Out of around 29 million cases worldwide, over 6 million have been reported in the US. A CDC official had said in July that the US could bring down the rate of contagion in the country in two months if everyone just wore a mask.
On the contrary, Democratic presidential contender Joe Biden on Thursday called on all U.S. governors to mandate mask-wearing to slow the spread of the Coronavirus.
During his speech, Gates also addressed the issue of misinformation surrounding face masks and vaccines and said that the brevity of the situation needs to be made clear to those who are resisting and hesitant.
In fact, Gates had come up with a recommendation to get non-mask wearers to change their attitude – peer pressure. In July, he had encouraged people to call out those who were seen without masks in public. He had said that calling them out would awaken a sense in people that everyone’s in this together and that might get them to change their ways.
He said that people need to understand that wearing a mask will not only help them but also those around them. Details about vaccines also need to be made public so that people can make informed decisions. “I hope the truth will get out,’ he said. Speaking of vaccines, he said that he is confident the world will have a Coronavirus vaccine by the end of the year.