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How Bill Gates, Elon Musk, Jack Ma and other billionaires are fighting COVID-19

With the world deep in battle with the coronavirus outbreak, the planet's wealthiest individuals and families are lending a hand to the global fight.

How Bill Gates, Elon Musk, Jack Ma and other billionaires are fighting COVID-19

Tesla Inc CEO Elon Musk and Alibaba Group Holding Ltd Executive Chairman Jack Ma attend the World Artificial Intelligence Conference (WAIC) in Shanghai, China, August 29, 2019. REUTERS/Aly Song

As COVID-19 continues to spread across the world, some of the world’s wealthiest are putting their vast fortunes to good use. This is despite the impact of the pandemic on their net worth – as global markets plunge, fortunes have tanked. 

Nonetheless, several tycoons have deployed their dollars to coronavirus funds, and others have donated medical supplies to countries facing a shortage. Then there are those who are redirecting company resources towards producing supplies needed to fight the outbreak.

Here's what the world's billionaires are doing to fight the spread of COVID-19.

BERNARD ARNAULT

FILE PHOTO: LVMH Chief Executive Bernard Arnault announces the group's 2019 results in Paris, France, Jan. 28, 2020. REUTERS/Christian Hartmann/File Photo

LVMH tycoon Bernard Arnault has converted three of the group’s perfume factories to manufacture hand sanitisers, which will be distributed to French hospitals for free. In addition, LVMH ordered 40 million masks from China to help France cope with the coronavirus outbreak.

READ> How LVMH went from making luxury perfumes to hand sanitisers in 72 hours

BILL GATES

The founder of Microsoft, Bill Gates, speaks on stage at the Clinton Global Initiative 2013 (CGI) in New York September 24, 2013. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson

On February 5, the Microsoft co-founder announced that the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation would commit US$100 million (S$142.7 million) to aid global detection, isolation and treatment of the coronavirus. More than half of the amount would go towards developing vaccines, treatment and diagnostics.

On April 5, Gates also said that his foundation will spend billions of dollars to fund the construction of factories for the most promising efforts to develop a vaccine to combat the virus.

ELON MUSK

FILE PHOTO: SpaceX founder and chief engineer Elon Musk attends a post-launch news conference to discuss the SpaceX Crew Dragon astronaut capsule in-flight abort test at the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida, U.S. January 19, 2020. REUTERS/Steve Nesius/File Photo

In March, Elon Musk was criticised for underplaying the severity of the pandemic, tweeting that panic over the virus was “dumb”. Musk has since bought and donated 1,000 ventilators for Los Angeles hospitals and supplied N95 masks to the University of Washington Medical Centre and Columbia University Irving Medical Centre.

Tesla engineers are now building ventilators from car parts, hoping to boost the supply of the life-saving breathing machine.

ERIC YUAN

FILE PHOTO: Eric Yuan, CEO of Zoom Video Communications poses for a photo after he took part in a bell ringing ceremony at the NASDAQ MarketSite in New York, New York, U.S., April 18, 2019. REUTERS/Carlo Allegri

Eric Yuan, the founder of video conferencing startup Zoom Technologies, has debuted on Forbes' annual list of billionaires for the first time. Use of the company's video chat service has skyrocketed since the COVID-19 outbreak. 

To help mitigate the impact of the outbreak, Yuan has made his video conferencing software free for unlimited use for all affected K-12 (kindergarten to 12th grade) schools in China, Japan, Italy and the US. 

JACK DORSEY

FILE PHOTO: Jack Dorsey, CEO and co-founder of Twitter and founder and CEO of Square, speaks at the Consensus 2018 blockchain technology conference in New York City, New York, U.S., May 16, 2018. REUTERS/Mike Segar/File Photo

Twitter co-founder and chief executive Jack Dorsey said on April 7 that he was committing US$1 billion of his personal fortune to coronavirus relief through his philanthropic fund. Dorsey said on Twitter that the amount is equivalent to 28 per cent of his wealth. 

As of April 8, Dorsey's contribution is by far the biggest single donation to the global coronavirus fight. 

JACK MA

Jack Ma, China's richest man, has offered the United States half a million coronavirus test kits and a million masks to help tackle the coronavirus pandemic. (Photo: AFP/Roslan Rahman)

Back in January, Alibaba’s Jack Ma donated US$14 million to develop a COVID-19 vaccine. In March, Ma also donated 500,000 test kits and one million masks to the US, which was facing a national shortage.

The billionaire, who is Asia’s wealthiest man, has also sent test kits and medical supplies to countries in Europe, Asia, Africa and Latin America.

READ> Commentary: China billionaires a force to be reckoned with in global COVID-19 fight – and more 

JEFF BEZOS

FILE PHOTO: Jeff Bezos, president and CEO of Amazon and owner of The Washington Post, speaks at the Economic Club of Washington DC's "Milestone Celebration Dinner" in Washington, US, Sep 13, 2018. (REUTERS/Joshua Roberts/File Photo)

On March 20, Amazon’s cloud unit Amazon Web Services committed US$20 million to the AWS Diagnostic Development Initiative, a programme that seeks to speed up the development of faster COVID-19 test kits.

On April 2, Jeff Bezos, who maintains his position this year as the world’s wealthiest individual (net worth: US$113 billion), announced that he is donating US$100 million to Feeding America, a US non-profit organisation with a network of food banks and food pantries.

However, Bezos has come under fire for Amazon’s treatment of its warehouse workers during the crisis, with reports claiming that several have tested positive for the virus.

LI KA-SHING

Hong Kong tycoon Li Ka-shing attends a news conference announcing CK Hutchison Holdings company results in Hong Kong, China March 22, 2017. REUTERS/Bobby Yip

In February, the charity of Hong Kong tycoon Li Ka-shing donated HK$100 million (S$18.4 million) to help Wuhan, the city where the coronavirus outbreak first occurred. Back in his home country, Li’s foundation has also distributed 250,000 face masks to social welfare organisations and homes for the elderly.

READ> Li Ka-shing is no longer Hong Kong's wealthiest man. Who is the new No 1?

MARK ZUCKERBERG

FILE PHOTO: Facebook's founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg. REUTERS/Charles Platiau

Mark Zuckerberg's Facebook donated its emergency reserve of 720,000 masks in March to provide health workers in the US with more protective gear. Zuckerberg and his wife, Priscilla Chan, have also put US$25 million of their money behind an effort by Bill Gates to develop therapeutic treatments for COVID-19. 

The Chan Zuckerberg Initiative is also working with the UC San Francisco and Stanford University to quadruple the Bay Area’s testing and diagnostics capacity. The team is also funding the acquisition of two state-of-the-art FDA approved COVID-19 diagnostic machines. 

MUKESH AMBANI

Mukesh Ambani, Chairman and Managing Director of Reliance Industries, attends the company's annual general meeting in Mumbai, India, August 12, 2019. REUTERS/Francis Mascarenhas/File Photo

Mukesh Ambani’s Reliance Industries set up India’s first dedicated COVID-19 hospital in Mumbai. The centre in Seven Hills Hospital has a total of 100 beds. Additionally, Ambani has contributed US$67 million to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s emergency fund.

RICHARD BRANSON

Sir Richard Branson stands on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange ahead of the start of trading in Virgin Galactic in New York, on Oct 28, 2019. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid/File Photo FILE PHOTO:

The Virgin Atlantic billionaire was vilified in March for asking staff to take eight weeks of unpaid leave amid the coronavirus crisis. Since then, Branson announced that Virgin Atlantic has pledged US$250 million to supporting its employees.

SHELDON ADELSON

Las Vegas Sands Corp Chairman and CEO Adelson on Apr 4, 2013. (REUTERS/Jeff Scheid/Pool/File Photo) File Photo - Sheldon Adelson testifies on the witness stand at the Regional Justice Center in Las Vegas, Nevada, U.S. on April 4, 2013. REUTERS/Jeff Scheid/Pool/File Photo

Business magnate and casino tycoon Sheldon Adelson donated two million masks and 20,000 protective suits to first responders and medical workers to help offset a national shortage, according to Las Vegas Sands casino company. The company also pledged US$250,000 to hunger-relief programmes in Nevada.

READ> COVID-19: How the pandemic could help push us into a greener way of life

Source: CNA/st(ds)

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