The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is dramatically increasing the amount it’s spending to combat the coronavirus, pledging up to $100 million to help contain the outbreak.
The foundation said in a statement Wednesday that its funds would be used to help find a vaccine for the virus, limit its spread and improve the detection and treatment of patients.
The new donation total includes $10 million the foundation had previously pledged.
The organization will immediately direct $20 million to groups including the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the World Health Organization, which last week declared the coronavirus outbreak a global public health emergency.
Funding will also be allocated to public health agencies in China and other countries affected by the outbreak.
The foundation is also focusing on countries in South Asia and Africa, where it says people have higher risks of contamination due to a lack of access to good health care. Up to $20 million will go to health authorities in these regions.
“The release of fast and flexible funding is intended to help multilateral organizations and national public health authorities rapidly scale up their virus detection capabilities and implement disease modeling analytics,” the group said in a statement.
This is “so that they can target resources where they can have the greatest impact in arresting disease spread,” it added.
Bill and Melinda Gates are known for their work on public health and philanthropy. In 2009, they worked with authorities in China to combat a tuberculosis outbreak in the country, contributing about $33 million to relief efforts.
In 2010, the couple committed as much as $10 billion to vaccine research over the next decade. That same year, they also started an initiative with Berkshire Hathaway’s Warren Buffett called the “Giving Pledge,” which encourages billionaires to give most of their wealth to charity.
Bill Gates, who co-founded Microsoft in 1975 and is the world’s second-richest person, currently has an estimated net worth of $117 billion, according to the Bloomberg Billionaires index.
Gates’ team is the latest to step up as the coronavirus outbreak worsens, infecting some 28,000 people in more than 25 countries and territories. At least 560 people have been killed to date, mostly in mainland China.
Other prominent business leaders have pledged millions of dollars in aid to help combat the virus. Alibaba co-founder Jack Ma has donated 100 million yuan ($14.4 million) to vaccine research and virus treatment measures, his foundation said last week.
Xiaomi CEO Lei Jun has also contributed 12.7 million yuan ($1.8 million) to relief efforts in his home province of Hubei, the epicenter of the outbreak, according to a company spokesperson.