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Melinda Gates said she feared coronavirus in Africa would lead to dead being put out in street, as in Ecuador

Disclosure: The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is one of Africa Check’s funders, providing 11% of our income in 2019.

Melinda Gates, co-chair of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and wife of US billionaire Bill Gates, has said the coronavirus pandemic “will make Africa have dead bodies lying on the streets”. 

That’s the claim in a 12 April 2020 post on Facebook in Kenya.

“Melinda Gates, renowned billionaire Gates wife says the lack of testing kits in Africa is the reason why the continent’s Novel Coronavirus cases are low, and this will make Africa have dead bodies lying on the streets,” the post says.

“Covid-19 will be horrible in the developing world, she said. My heart is in Africa. I am worried. The only reason why the reported cases of the coronavirus disease in Africa is low now is most likely because there have not been wide testing of people. The disease is going to bite hard on the continent. I see dead bodies in the streets of Africa, Melinda said.”

Variations on the claim have been posted elsewhere on Facebook. All have been flagged as possibly false by the social network’s fact-checking system.

Did Gates say this?

‘Look at Ecuador’

A Google search for the words “Melinda Gates bodies on streets of Africa” led Africa Check to an interview with Gates by CNN’s Poppy Harlow, posted on YouTube on 10 April 2020.

Here Gates expressed her fear that vulnerable populations in developing countries could be overwhelmed by the Covid-19 pandemic.

“It’s going to be horrible in the developing world. And part of the reason you’re seeing that case numbers don’t look very bad is because they don’t have access to very many tests,” she said.

“So, look at Ecuador. Look at what’s going on in Ecuador. They’re putting bodies out on the street. You’re going to see that in countries in Africa.”

Early April saw several media reports of coronavirus victims’ bodies being left on the street in Guayaquil, Ecuador’s most populous city. The city is said to be the “emerging epicentre” of Latin America’s Covid-19 outbreak.

Coronavirus led to ‘first thoughts’ about Africa

The Gates Foundation works in health, infectious diseases, water and sanitation programmes in African countries.

In the interview, Gates said that after seeing the extent of China’s lockdown – and the logistics required – her “first thoughts” were about how Africa would handle the pandemic. “How in the world are they going to deal with these?”

Washing your hands and keeping a social distance from other people are two of the best ways to avoid coronavirus infection. They are encouraged by the World Health Organization, the US Centers for Disease Control and African governments.

But Gates pointed out that these basic measures are nearly impossible for people living in slum conditions.

“If you live in a slum, you can’t physical distance, you have to go out and get your meal, you don’t have clean water to wash your hands,” she said.

Gates did say that a lack of resources meant that African countries could, like Ecuador, see people putting the bodies of coronavirus victims out on the street.

Some websites have suggested Gates said the streets of African countries “will be littered with dead bodies” or have “piles of dead bodies”, or that she even “wants dead bodies on the streets of Africa”. This is inaccurate. – Dancan Bwire


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