Bill Gates is pushing Congress to spend $4 billion on vaccinations for poor countries.
On Monday, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation released the fourth of its annual Goalkeeper reports, which track the slow but steady progress the world has made toward more than a dozen health-related goals set forth by the United Nations in 2015.
This year’s report, which Mr. Gates discussed in an interview with The New York Times, was unrelentingly grim. Not since 1870 have so many countries been in recession at once, it says.
Between 1990 and 2020, the percentage of the world’s population living in extreme poverty, which is now defined as living on less than $2 a day, shrank to less than 7 percent from 37 percent. In just the past few months, 37 million people have fallen back below the line, the report estimated.
One of the starkest conclusions in the report is that nearly twice as many deaths could be prevented if Covid-19 vaccines were distributed to all countries based on their populations rather than to the 50 richest countries first.
The assessment comes as the United States, stung harder by the virus than any other country, is retreating from the global health stage and seems focused primarily on saving itself.
Still, Mr. Gates harbors some optimism.
“It’s my disposition,” he said. “Plus, I’ve got to call these people up and make the pitch to them that this really makes sense — and I totally, totally believe it makes sense.”
By “these people,” he was referring to leading figures in the White House and Congress, whom he has personally lobbied to do “this”: namely, add an extra $4 billion to the fiscal stimulus package now under debate in Congress so that poor countries can get Covid-19 vaccines.
Ultimately Mr. Gates’s goal is far more ambitious: to double American foreign aid from less than 0.25 percent of gross domestic product to 0.5 percent or more. He sees the pandemic as an opportunity to do that.
“As they say,” he added cheerily, “the U.S. government — after it’s tried every other thing — does the right thing.”
As he did in Silicon Valley while battling competitors and antitrust regulators, Mr. Gates, the co-founder of Microsoft, can calculate his chances of success with a ruthless logic.
That has rarely been as true as it is now, as a once-in-a-century pandemic devastates the impoverished countries where he focuses his giving.
The damage has been wrought less by the virus — so far it has killed much smaller percentages of the populations of Asia and Africa than of the Americas and Western Europe — than by the economic impact, which has been far greater in countries where people and governments “have no spare reserves to draw on,” Mr. Gates said.
The Asian Development Bank said on Tuesday that developing economies across Asia would contract 0.7 percent this year, the first contraction in the region since the early 1960s. The bank said that depending on how the poverty line is defined, the pandemic would increase the number of people living below it by 78 million or 162 million, reversing three to four years of progress.
A federal judge in Pennsylvania ruled on Monday that several restrictions ordered by Gov. Tom Wolf to combat the pandemic were unconstitutional. The decision struck down stay-at-home orders and the closure of “non-life-sustaining” businesses, directives that were issued in March and have since been suspended.
The judge also declared that a current order limiting the size of gatherings — no more than 25 people indoors and 250 outdoors — violated “the right of assembly enshrined in the First Amendment.”
A spokeswoman for Mr. Wolf, a Democrat, said the administration was seeking a stay of the decision and an appeal. William Shaw Stickman IV, the judge who ruled on the case, was nominated to the bench by President Trump in 2019.
Mr. Trump, at an event in Arizona, celebrated the decision, calling it a “great ruling.”
As in other states, many Republican politicians in Pennsylvania have been steadfastly opposed to their state’s pandemic mitigation strategy, with some urging the governor’s impeachment. In July, the State Supreme Court rejected a suit filed by Republican legislators seeking to end Mr. Wolf’s emergency authority.
Some of the most vocal opponents of the governor, including Representative Mike Kelly, a Republican whose district is in western Pennsylvania, were among the plaintiffs in the suit that was decided on Monday.
“The court believes that defendants undertook their actions in a well-intentioned effort to protect Pennsylvanians from the virus,” Judge Stickman wrote. “However, good intentions toward laudable ends are not alone enough to uphold governmental action against a constitutional challenge. Indeed, the greatest threats to our system of constitutional liberties may arise when the ends are laudable, and the intent is good — especially in a time of emergency.”
In a statement, the governor’s spokeswoman said that “the actions taken by the administration were mirrored by governors across the country and saved, and continue to save, lives in the absence of federal action.”
A senior Chinese health official said a coronavirus vaccine could be available to the public in China as early as November, the state news media reported on Tuesday.
Dr. Wu Guizhen, the chief expert for biosafety at the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention, told the state broadcaster CCTV that “ordinary people” in China could be given the vaccine in November or December.
“Current progress has been very smooth” for vaccine candidates in the final stage of clinical trials, she said.
China now has five vaccine candidates in late-stage clinical trials, including one being developed in collaboration with other countries, Dr. Wu said. Two production factories have been approved for manufacturing, and a third is in the approval process, she said. China, the world’s largest vaccine producer, has put the prospect of a Covid-19 vaccine at the center of a diplomatic charm offensive.
China has already approved at least two experimental vaccines under an emergency use program, which began this summer with soldiers and employees of state-owned companies and has quietly expanded to include health care and aviation workers.
Dr. Wu, who said she was still doing well after receiving one of the experimental vaccines in April, said she expected them to remain effective for one to three years.
Dr. Wu’s estimate that a vaccine could be ready in November is not far-off from predictions made by President Trump. His administration has told state officials to be ready to start distributing one as soon as late October. That would be just before the presidential election, and the timing raised concerns that a vaccine could be rushed for political reasons. A group of drug companies racing to develop a vaccine has pledged not to release anything that does not meet efficacy and safety standards.
A vaccine approved by Russia in August was met with skepticism from experts who warned against rushing normal procedures, and Russian and Chinese vaccines have been criticized over their designs. Health officials have warned against thinking of a vaccine as a “silver bullet,” saying that even if one is approved before the end of the year, it will take time to produce and distribute and will not mean an immediate end to pandemic restrictions.
In other developments around the world:
The Australian state of Victoria, the center of the country’s outbreak, on Tuesday reported no new coronavirus deaths for the first time in more than two months. The state’s capital, Melbourne, remains in lockdown, but restrictions have been loosened in the rest of the state as cases continue to fall.
New Zealand on Tuesday reported zero new cases of community transmission as it begins to loosen restrictions that were imposed after an outbreak last month in Auckland, its largest city.
Hong Kong on Tuesday reported no new cases of community transmission for the first time since a third wave of infections began in early July. Bars, nightclubs, karaoke parlors, theme parks and swimming pools will be allowed to reopen starting Friday, officials said. Carrie Lam, Hong Kong’s chief executive, also praised a two-week mass testing program that ended on Monday but drew fewer participants than the government had hoped. Almost 1.8 million people, or about a quarter of the population, signed up for the testing, which uncovered 32 cases, or about two per 100,000 people tested.
In England, new lockdown measures went into effect on Tuesday in parts of the West Midlands, which includes Birmingham, the country’s second-largest city. Under the restrictions, people are barred from meeting others who are not part of their household, either indoors or outside. The measure comes after the British government lowered the limit on gatherings to six from 30.
In Jordan, schools will be closed for in-person classes, restaurants will be open only for delivery and takeout, public markets will shut down and houses of worship will suspend prayers for two weeks starting Thursday in an attempt to curb the spread of the virus, the country’s state-run news agency said on Monday.
Reporting was contributed by Jennifer Jett, Donald G. McNeil Jr., Claire Moses, Campbell Robertson, Michael D. Shear, Sui-Lee Wee and Elaine Yu.