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Bill Gates estimates at least 6-10 weeks before coronavirus is quelled in US

Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates. (Getty Images)

As some research estimates that it could be as many as 18 months before we can wind down social distancing measures, Bill Gates expanded on what that timeline might look like in practice.

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Gates fielded questions on Reddit as part of an “Ask Me Anything” session on Wednesday, addressing concerns over just how long some countries — including the U.S. — might be shut down by coronavirus.

“This will vary a lot by country,” said Gates. “China is seeing very few cases now because their testing and ‘shut down’ was very effective. If a country does a good job with testing and ‘shut down’ then within 6-10 weeks they should see very few cases and be able to open back up.”

That 6-10 week timeline appears to run in opposition to research indicating that if social distancing measures aren’t maintained before a vaccine is produced, coronavirus could reappear in the general population.

That being said, Gates described ways to mitigate the reappearance of coronavirus after it’s initially quelled.

“It depends on how you deal with people coming in from other countries and how strong the testing effort was,” he noted. “So far in China the amount of rebound being seen is very low. They are controlling people coming into the country very tightly. Hong Kong, Taiwan and Singapore have all done a good job on this. If we do it right the rebounds should be fairly small in numbers.”

So, why the 18-month timeline detailed by the U.S. government in its coronavirus response plan?

“There are many models to look at what will happen,” said Gates. “That (timeline) is based on a set of assumptions derived from Influenza and it doesn’t match what has happened in China or even South Korea.”

Graphs: Coronavirus cases across the US and Worldwide

“We need to be humble about what we know but it does appear that social distancing with testing can get the cases down to low levels,” he added.

That being so, the U.S. is still lagging behind on a key facet to limiting a rebound, with Gates pointing out that “the U.S. is still not organized on testing.”

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is looking to provide at least a little relief in that department, as it continues to work on developing in-home testing kits.

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