The world has experienced this in past crises, and now we’re seeing it again in the fight against the current coronavirus pandemic—unified efforts to not only protect the public by controlling the spread, but also supporting research aimed at developing treatments, vaccines and the like. As governments in scores of countries around the world pursue a tri-fold strategy of protecting their own citizens, coordinating research efforts with other nations and mitigating economic repercussions where possible, corporations and prominent foundations are pitching in to do their part.
A prime example is the recent announcement that the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, known for its philanthropic efforts around the world, has joined forces with Mastercard and Wellcome to fund the fight against COVID-19. The organizations have committed $125 million in both new funding and money already earmarked to tackle this epidemic. The money will be used to identify potential treatments for COVID-19, accelerate their development and prepare for the manufacture of millions of doses for use worldwide.
According to Mark Suzman, CEO of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the expertise of pharmaceutical companies will be critical to this endeavor, which has been dubbed the COVID-19 Therapeutics Accelerator. “Epidemics introduce a paradox to the world—viruses like COVID-19 spread rapidly, but developing vaccines and treatments to stop them moves slowly,” Suzman explained. “If we want to make people—particularly the most vulnerable—safer from outbreaks, then we need to find a way to unwind this paradox, to speed up R&D and slow down the spread.”
More and more companies and enterprises are joining the fight as COVID-19 cases escalate around the globe. The World Economic Forum identified several companies and individuals stepping up in a big way.
Jack Ma, the billionaire founder of this Chinese e-commerce giant, is donating—through his foundation—1.1 million testing kits, 6 million masks and 60,000 protective suits and face shields. They are all being sent to Ethiopia first, from where they will be sent out to every other country on the African continent. “As members of the global community, it will be irresponsible of us to sit on the fence, panic, ignore facts or fail to act,” he stated. “We need to take action now.”
The maker of the popular iPhone and related electronic devices is donating 10 million surgical masks to healthcare workers in the U.S. to help fight the coronavirus pandemic. “These people deserve our debt of gratitude for all of the work they are doing on the frontlines,” said Tim Cook, CEO. In addition, Apple is committing $15 million in support of the Covid-19 Solidarity Response Fund and the CDC Foundation.
Together with Microsoft, Amazon created the COVID-19 Response Fund, targeting Washington State, which was the first state in the U.S. to report large infections. Amazon also said it will donate $5 million to local businesses based near its Seattle headquarters that will likely lose out on sales now that the tech giant’s thousands of employees are working from home.
“As large corporations, we can take this step—and should,” said Brad Smith, Microsoft president. “But not all businesses will be able to do so. As our community focuses on public health needs during the COVID-19 outbreak, it’s important that we also rally together to address the unmet economic needs developing around us.”
Alaska Airlines, Starbucks
Amazon and Microsoft are not the only entities teaming up. Alaska Airlines and the Starbucks Foundation have donated $2.5 million toward efforts to stop the spread and ease the impact on affected communities. The two tech giants have also said they will continue to pay the wages of workers employed to deliver services to their office campuses—people who cannot work from home and might therefore lose out financially.
The social media behemoth has committed to donate $20 million to support coronavirus relief efforts—$10 million apiece to the Covid-19 Solidarity Response Fund, started by the United Nations Foundation and the World Health Organization, and to the CDC Foundation, which has initiated its own fundraising efforts.
Swiss pharmaceutical giant Roche has started shipping coronavirus tests to the U.S. with the goal of distributing at least 400,000 out every week. Its fully automated tests are capable of delivering up to 960 sets of results every eight hours.