Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates branded Elon Musk’s statements on the coronavirus outrageous and said that he hoped the tech maverick won't confuse his areas of expertise. Appearing on Squawk Box on CNBC, Gates spoke about the COVID-19 outbreak in the United States and how misinformation has rapidly spread on social media. Commenting on Musk’s statement, he said:
"Elon’s positioning is to maintain a high level of outrageous comments. He’s not much involved in vaccines. He makes a great electric car. And his rockets work well. So he’s allowed to say these things. I hope that he doesn’t confuse areas he’s not involved in too much".
Musk has downplayed the risks of SARS-CoV-2 and made several controversial statements on the issue. In particular, he has claimed that US authorities are overcounting COVID-19 deaths and has harshly criticised the lockdowns that were imposed to stop the spread of the disease. He branded the measures "fascist", despite the fact that a study showed that the measures had saved millions of lives in Europe alone. In addition, Musk sued a California county and threatened to move Tesla’s factory to Texas in response to local authorities prohibiting the company from resuming work in May. Back then, several employees told Business Insider that they risked losing their jobs if they chose to disobey the call to return work.
Bill Gates, whose foundation has donated millions of dollars to laboratories to develop a coronavirus vaccine, also touched on the issue of misinformation on social media and said he was worried that the American public is concerned over the safety of the COVID-19 vaccine.
"When you let people communicate, you have to deal with the fact that certain incorrect things that are very titillating can spread very rapidly compared to the truth. Hopefully they’ll look to the facts, understand the values of the people that they’re thinking about and understand that we’re in this together and we need to protect each other with masks and eventually probably with herd immunity with a vaccine", said Bill Gates.
Numerous conspiracies have appeared since the start of the coronavirus outbreak. Some reports have claimed that the virus originated in a Chinese lab and was released accidentally, an allegation that has been voiced by US President Donald Trump and US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. China has denied the claim, while the World Health Organisation has said that there is no evidence to believe that the virus was man-made. Other rumours say the virus was developed by Bill Gates, who wants to implant chips in people via a vaccine against the disease to control the world’s population. Microsoft’s co-founder has denied the allegation.