Bill Gates: Donald Trump's Government Let COVID Spread Unchecked

Bill Gates has said that COVID-19 was allowed to spread "unchecked" around the United States during the early stages of the pandemic thanks to the Trump administration.

Speaking at the TIME 100 Summit in New York on Tuesday, Gates said there was a lack of diagnostic testing by the U.S. under former President Donald Trump to track the early spread of the virus. Gates, the billionaire co-founder of Microsoft and head of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, is an outspoken global health advocate who has spoken out about pandemics frequently. The philanthropist tested positive for COVID-19 last month.

"If we had done one thing well, which is scale up our ability to do diagnostics and then enforce quarantines around those diagnostics, then the United States would be more like Australia that's had 10 percent of the deaths or Taiwan that's had 3 percent of the deaths that we've had," Gates said at Time 100.

Bill Gates speaking
At the 2022 TIME100 Summit, Bill Gates made comments critical of the U.S.' early response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Gates is seen above speaking at the summit in New York on June 7, 2022. Jemal Countess/Getty

"A failure to just practice and even understand which group in the government was involved in large-scale diagnostics," he continued. "...that meant that the disease basically spread unchecked [in] the first few hundred days and then after that, you're in very tough shape because of that exponential growth. You can't do much if you don't act quickly."

Australia has had much less than 10 percent of the COVID-19 deaths seen in the U.S. in absolute terms—Australia had recorded 8,802 deaths compared to 1,004,260 in the U.S. at the time of publication. Adjusting for population size, the U.S. has recorded around 306.2 deaths per 100,000 people compared to 34.5 deaths per 100,000 people in Australia, according to the Johns Hopkins University Coronavirus Resource Center.

Gates added in the interview that COVID "could have been way more fatal" and that "we just got lucky that the death rate per case was like 0.2 percent."

He's not the only one critical of the Trump administration's initial response to the COVID pandemic. The former president said that his move to restrict travelers from China to the U.S. in February 2020 was "very early" and "saved a lot of lives," but a Pew Research Center poll from that April showed that 65 percent of around 4,900 U.S. adults surveyed said Trump was "too slow" in taking major steps to address the outbreak.

In recent days and weeks, the seven-day moving average of new COVID cases in the U.S. has hovered around the 100,000 mark, having increased from this year's low of about 25,000 in early April, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Newsweek reached out to Trump's office for comment.