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- Gates said the US economy shouldn’t go back to normal for the immediate future and businesses should remain closed during the coronavirus pandemic.
- “It’s very irresponsible for somebody to suggest that we can have the best of both worlds,” the philanthropist said.
- President Trump is weighing whether significant restrictions on US economic activity put in place to curb the spread of the virus should be lifted next week.
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Bill Gates is warning of dire economic consequences should President Trump move ahead and start lifting restrictions on the American economy in the middle of the coronavirus pandemic.
Gates, one of the nation’s leading philanthropists, didn’t mention Trump by name. But he had a scathing rebuke toward the Trump administration in an interview on TED Tuesday.
“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,'” Gates said.
He went on: “It’s very irresponsible for somebody to suggest that we can have the best of both worlds.”
Asked what he would do if he were in the president’s shoes, Gates said economic concerns would take a backseat to ensuring the health of the public.
“The economic effect of this is really dramatic. Nothing like this has ever happened to the economy in our lifetimes,” 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 minimize the pain in the diseases-and-death dimension.”
He said businesses should remain closed for another six to 10 weeks.
The Trump administration is weighing whether to roll back unprecedented restrictions on US economic activity. Scores of businesses closed their doors across the country in an effort to thwart the virus’s spread. And public health experts have urged Americans to stay home and practice social distancing for the time being.
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Still, concern is mounting in the administration around a robust economy suddenly going into free-fall. At a White House press conference on Monday evening, Trump said: “We cannot let the cure be worse than the problem itself.”
But public health experts say easing social distancing restrictions could accelerate the spread of the virus. Anthony Fauci — an infectious disease expert on the administration’s coronavirus task force — is pushing to keep them in place for several more weeks. The 15-day social distancing guidelines from the federal government are ending on March 30.
Trump, though, said on Tuesday that he wants to have the US “opened up and just raring to go by Easter,” which falls on April 12 — 19 days from now.
As of March 23, there are over 50,000 confirmed US cases of COVID-19, the respiratory illness caused by coronavirus. At least 653 people have died so far in the US.