The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation announced Wednesday a new commitment of $100 million toward the global response to the coronavirus epidemic.
“The funding will help strengthen detection, isolation and treatment efforts; protect at-risk populations; and develop vaccines, treatments and diagnostics,” the Seattle-based foundation said in a news release. In late January, it pledged $10 million for fighting the virus. That figure is included in the latest sum.
The coronavirus has infected over 28,000 people in China and killed at least 560 since December. The virus has also spread to at least 26 other countries and territories, though some 99% of cases remain in China, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).
In its announcement, the Gates Foundation said it would provide $20 million toward detecting, isolating and treating people with the novel coronavirus. The funds will be channeled toward multilateral organizations, including the WHO and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), as well as to health authorities in China and other high-risk countries.
The rest of the funds will be directed “to help public health authorities cover the initial cost of labor and supplies while international agencies and national governments appropriate the resources necessary to fund ongoing operations,” the foundation said.
The Gates Foundation has contributed millions of dollars toward combating and preventing previous health crises.
In recent weeks, as demand has risen for swift responses to the coronavirus epidemic, philanthropic organizations have made high-profile commitments to help.
The Jack Ma foundation, established by and named after the Chinese billionaire and co-founder of Alibaba Group, pledged $14.4 million toward fighting the outbreak in late January. The funding will primarily go toward vaccine research underway at Chinese institutions. Other big names donating millions in funds include the online food delivery company Meituan Dianping, logistics subsidiary Cainiao Global and Tencent Charity Foundation. Alibaba’s payment and health subsidiary’s are also offering loans and free services to affected people.
Billionaires and companies may see economic benefits from their philanthropy. Critics of the philanthropic model have argued that the private sector is not a reliable alternative to pushing for well-funded governments that are responsive to and responsible for public health.
“These companies want to donate money and services to help the victims of the outbreak, as the positive publicity will establish a good imagine for them,” Kenny Ng Lai-yin, a securities strategist at Hong Kong-based brokerage Everbright Sun Hung Kai, told Yahoo News. “This will help their development in the mainland consumer and other sectors in the future.”
Popular actors, singers and other celebrities have been sending support, in the form of face masks and funds, to charities in Wuhan and other virus-hit areas of China. In late January, Zhu Yilong, a Chinese actor from Wuhan, donated around $145,000 to the Wuhan Benevolent General Association, Malaysia’s the New Straits Times reported.
On Wednesday, the World Health Organization launched a new Strategic Preparedness and Response Plan and requested $675 million in funds. The majority of the money is earmarked to go to high-risk countries.