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Future of Medical Aid Schemes hangs in the balance
24 May 2020, 7:32 PM
The future of Medical Aid Schemes post the COVID-19 pandemic hangs in the balance. There are fears that a number of people will be forced out of schemes as there are projections of job losses as a result of the pandemic. It is estimated that millions of people will be retrenched and salaries slashed after the national lockdown because companies would have lost profits during the lockdown.
Some Medical Aid schemes have already raised alarm that their reserves are being eroded with some fearing closure, depending on how many members lose jobs.

About 15 % of the South African population belongs to a medical aid schemes, which gives them access to private quality healthcare. However, the coronavirus pandemic is seemingly destabilising the industry.

“A large number of people who are on medical schemes are employed or are in semi-formal employment. That would be a massive impact in most of the schemes because the ones that can’t afford right now will drop off but then those that are currently on are probably going to have to pay more in the following year to make up for the fact that contributions have gone down  and they may have to end up falling off in the following year so it really is a big concern,” says Dr Lungi Nyathi, Managing Executive at Medscheme with a membership of 3 million people.

The Government Employee Medical Scheme (GEMS) says while it is assured of premiums from its members who are government employees, it is concerned about the long-term effects of the pandemic.

“The biggest concern is how long is this going to last? The impact is on the members. Members have had to adjust to a new way of life. We budget every year usually our budget for the subsequent year is finalised around September so by the time we finalised our budget for 2020 we did not have any idea that we would have a pandemic. So the biggest concern is that this is something that was not planned for,” says Principal Officer at GEMS, Dr Stan Moloabi.

The Board of Healthcare Funders (BHF) says the risks to medical schemes have changed drastically with the arrival of COVID-19.

“The risks that schemes face is around the economy. Schemes have got a cushion for high claims in the form of reserves that they have but these reserves are kept as investments and we’ve seen reports of investments being eroded. Some of the schemes have already said that they have lost as much as 16 % of the value of the reserves. People off medical aid schemes will be forced to access public health care, which is currently overburdened,” says Managing Director at BHF, Dr Katlego Mothudi.

Government is currently rolling out the National Health Insurance (NHI), which should be accessible to all South Africans.

Deputy Director General in the Health Department, Dr Anban Pillay, says government will work on stabilising the economy first, as it continues with plans for the NHI.

“All medical scheme members would eventually get on to the NHI fund. We would obviously start with those who currently don’t have a medical aid. I think it’s important also to appreciate that COVID-19 has highlighted why a national system of healthcare is very important to respond to diseases such as COVID-19. Remember COVID-19 doesn’t know whether you’ve got medical aid or not, whether you are rich or poor, whether you are black or white or any of those things. It just basically spreads quite easily.”

Discovery Health says it is treading more carefully to prevent exhausting all its savings and reserves, which will come in handy during the anticipated tough economic times ahead.

Medical aid schemes expect to spend millions due to COVID-19 

Medical Aid Schemes estimate that they will spend over R2 billion just on COVID-19 testing and treatment. They say they’ve been forced to be strategic about how they manage the global pandemic.

GEMS, which covers public servants, says it estimates it will spend close to R1 billion, while Medscheme estimates their costs at half a billion.

Lower rates

Medscheme, which looks after 17 medical schemes, has had to negotiate for lower rates with the pathology laboratories for testing for COVID-19.

The scheme’s Dr Nyathi says, “We’ve also had to do some negotiations with the pathology labs for better testing. You will remember that when the tests initially came in the private sector, they were just over 1 400 and we’ve been able to negotiate down to 850. It’s where we are now.”

In the video below, South Africa’s healthcare is discussed:

Schalke crisis deepens with shock home loss to Augsbur
24 May 2020, 4:48 PM
Schalke 04 slumped to a shock 3-0 home loss to relegation-threatened Augsburg on Sunday, their fourth defeat in five games dropping them to eighth place in the Bundesliga.
Augsburg’s Eduard Loewen curled in a sensational free kick from 23 metres in the sixth minute and Nigerian winger Noah Sarenren Bazee slotted home in the 76th before Sergio Cordova added the third in stoppage time.
Schalke, now without a win in nine league games, slipped down to eighth place on 37 points while Augsburg’s first victory after four straight losses lifted them to 12th on 30, seven above the relegation playoff spot.
Bayern Munich lead the standings with 61 points, four ahead of Borussia Dortmund whom they face on Tuesday.
The Bundesliga became the first major sports league to resume last week, with no fans in attendance, after being suspended for more than two months due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
European soccer’s return to action after coronavirus
Professional soccer leagues around Europe are gearing up for a return to action following the novel coronavirus stoppage, but some are more advanced than others. Here is a roundup of the state of play:


The Bundesliga restarted on May 16 and games were played without fans and with a strict health protocol in place.
The German Cup semi-finals will be played on June 9 and 10, with the final scheduled for July 4.


Premier League clubs returned to training on May 19 after agreeing to allow “small group” sessions to begin, with a possible return to normal ‘contact’ training the week after.

Clubs have been informed that a resumption of matches would see them played only at neutral venues that have been approved by health and safety standards, but they remain hopeful they can still find a way to play games on the usual home and away basis.
Secretary of state for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport, Oliver Dowden, on May 14 said the government was “opening the door” for football to return in June.


Spain’s La Liga can return to action from June 8, Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez said on May 23.
All organised soccer in Spain was provisionally suspended on March 12 although clubs in the top two divisions have returned to group training.

La Liga has yet to officially confirm a date on which it will resume, although president Javier Tebas has said he hoped it could do so from June 12.


There is still doubt over whether Serie A can restart, with government ministers, the Italian federation, the Serie A league and clubs all giving conflicting information.

Sports Minister Vincenzo Spadafora said the government would decide on May 28 if and when the Serie A season can resume. He also announced on May 19 that teams could start full group training immediately. Serie A clubs previously voted in favour of re-starting the season on June 13.

Italy’s football federation (FIGC) has set Aug. 20 as the deadline for finishing the season and wants to start next season on Sept. 1.


The season was called off by the government and Paris St Germain crowned champions.

Olympique Lyonnais said they would claim damages after they were denied a European spot. Relegated Amiens and Toulouse also threatened to initiate legal action.


The Austrian Bundesliga will resume on June 2 with matches played every three days.
The Austrian Cup final will be played on May 29.


Belgium was the first country to cancel the rest of its season. Club Brugge were formally declared champions on May 15.

Runners-up Gent will compete in the preliminary rounds of the 2020-21 Champions League while Sporting Chrleroi, Royal Antwerp and Standard Liege all qualify for the Europa League.


Bulgaria’s top division will resume on June 5 without spectators in a shortened format and end on July 11, the country’s football union said.

The Bulgarian Cup final will take place on July 4, and the following campaign will start on July 25, three days after the domestic Super Cup.

The remainder of the second division season has been cancelled, with leaders CSKA 1948 declared champions.


Croatia’s domestic season will resume with cup ties on May 30 followed by league action on June 6 pending government approval, its football association HNS said.

Czech Republic 

The top two leagues in the Czech Republic resumed on May 23. The plan is for two games to be played per week and the season to be completed by July 18. Teplice beat Slovan Liberec 2-0 in a match that included pre-kickoff temperature checks and other protective measures.


The Danish League Association (DLA) said the country’s top-flight season would resume on May 28 in empty stadiums and the campaign would conclude with the Europa League playoff game on July 29.

Third-placed Aarhus play Randers in the first match on the league’s return and the club will allow fans to be present via the video conferencing tool Zoom, with their feed displayed on several screens that face the pitch.


Players from some of the 14 Greek Super League clubs started outdoor training in small groups on May 5, while following strict social distancing rules. Teams are hopeful the season can resume on June 14 pending permission from the government.


The season restarted on May 23 with two cup ties and a league game. Leaders Ferencvaros beat Debrecen 2-1 in the league game played without supporters, although 5,000 cardboard cutouts of fans were placed in the seats and piped crowd noise also spiced up the atmosphere.


The top-flight season was scheduled to kick off on April 22 and conclude on Sept. 26. This, however, has been delayed. The league is now preparing to begin the new campaign on June 14 if possible.


The four teams from Ireland’s top-flight league that have qualified for European competition can return to collective training on June 8. They will compete in a four-team tournament as part of a pilot programme for soccer’s return.


Top-flight soccer will resume on May 30, but fans will not be allowed into stadiums.


Clubs were allowed to resume outdoor training from May 4 and the league management has said matches could resume in June if the situation is favourable. There will be fewer matches so that the season can end on schedule.

The 12-team top division was suspended in mid-March and no date has been set as to when it might resume.
Heads of Kosovo’s football federation met with health authorities to discuss the return of soccer in the country but no decision was made.


The country’s soccer federation has presented a proposal to health authorities outlining plans for a resumption of the season no later than June 15.


The Dutch FA called time on their season on April 24 after the government banned public events until September. No champion was declared, but it was decided the top five teams at the time of the suspension of the league would compete in next year’s European club competitions.

North Macedonia 

The country’s soccer governing body is yet to set a date for a possible return to action as it requires the health ministry’s approval.

Northern Ireland 

Soccer in Northern Ireland has been suspended until at least May 31 with no indication when or if the season will resume.
Premiership clubs held a meeting on May 13 to discuss the outcome of the season but no decision was taken.


Norway’s Minister of Culture and Sports, Abid Raja, said elite football clubs could resume training from May 7 with a view to resuming the season from June 16.


The league has announced that it will restart on May 29.


Portugal’s top-flight soccer division will start again on June 4 after being halted since March due to the pandemic, the league’s organising body has said.
Nine stadiums have passed inspections and been declared ready to host matches.


The Russian Premier League will resume matches on June 21 and the Russian Football Union said teams will be allowed to make five substitutions per match.


Slovakia’s top-tier league will resume on June 13 in a shortened format of five rounds of championship and relegation groups if state authorities approve proposed conditions.


Sweden has avoided a full lockdown and many teams are already back in training. The top-flight Allsvenskan has been aiming to get underway on June 14 but the league has yet to get the green light from the nation’s Public Health Authority.


The government has given permission for matches to restart on June 8 and teams returned to training on May 11. However, the football league said there were still numerous financial and health issues to be resolved.

The league is due to make a decision at an assembly on May 29 and a resumption before June 20 looks unlikely.


Turkey’s domestic league will resume from June 12 and aims to complete the season on July 26, the country’s football federation chairman Nihat Ozdemir said. Turkey also plans to host the Champions League final in August.


The Ukraine Football Federation and Ukraine Premier League clubs met to discuss how to resume the season and the clubs proposed restarting the season on May 30 and ending the campaign on July 19.

NGO raises alarm over alleged human rights violations in Zimbambwe
24 May 2020, 3:51 PM

The Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum says it has recorded more than 200 human rights violations, allegedly committed by uniformed members and state agents, during the ongoing COVID-19 induced national lockdown.

The human rights group has raised concerns of escalating gross human right violations, use of brute force, torture, harassment and assault of ordinary citizens by state security agents since March 30, 2020.

The watchdog has also called for an urgent and independent investigation into the abduction and subsequent torture of three Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) activists after taking part in a flash demonstration in Harare’s Warren Park high-density suburb.

Meanwhile, two freelance journalists Samuel Takawira and Frank Chikowore were arrested by the police on Friday at a local clinic in the capital Harare where they were interviewing the three MDC activists who are recovering at the facility.

COVID-19 cases in Zimbbwe

The country has over 50 confirmed cases of coronavirus, 18  recoveries and four deaths since the onset of the outbreak on 20 March.

President Emmerson Mnangagwa on Friday expressed gratitude to the team of Chinese medical experts for sharing their experience and knowledge with Zimbabwe’s medical staff in fighting the COVID-19 pandemic.

His thank-you letter was read out by Zimbabwean Health Minister Obadiah Moyo at a joint press conference at the conclusion of the team’s two-week task in the country.

“I write to express to you, and your colleagues, my deep personal gratitude, and that of my government and the people of Zimbabwe, for your unwavering support by sharing the expertise garnered from China’s victorious battle against the COVID-19 pandemic,” Mnangagwa said in the letter to team leader, Zhu Yimin.

He said Zimbabwe’s medical staff benefited immensely from the team’s frontline knowledge in fighting COVID-19.

Below is the dashboard tracking global COVID-19 cases, death toll, recoveries and more:

Lockdown induces fitness boom in South Africa
23 May 2020, 10:11 PM

The lockdown has seen a fitness boom across South Africa.

Since regulations were eased under Level 4 allowing joggers back on the road, the number of people exercising seems to have doubled.

With others opting for home workouts, online training has also gained traction.

“We see more people  coming out to excercise and its encouraging to see people especially the young people. It’s important to keep healthy, says one Durbanite.

“As older people we suffer from many illnesses, exercise helps to keep one fit and healthy and can prevent unnecessary illnesses. I urged the elderly to come out even a short walk is enough, adds another one.”

Fitness experts say its important take care of your physical health during these trying times.

The lockdown has caused much anxiety and uncertainty but one of the positives is it by the time it ends, many South Africans will be fitter and healthier.

SABC News reporter, Ayanda Mhlongo reports further in the video below:

Blade Nzimande
Some students skeptical about Nzimande’s promises
23 May 2020, 9:27 PM
Some tertiary students have raised concerns about promises made by the Department of Higher Education to assist learners with schooling when the South Africa enters level 3 of the coronavirus lockdown.
On Saturday, Higher Education Minister Blade Nzimande announced that students will receive free data bundles for the next three months and some laptops to assist with online learning.
But some students from Siyabuswa, in Mpumalanga, says the Minister did not address all issues.

“I think our Minister didn’t mention a lot of details, he didn’t give much details because are we going to regain the two months that we have already lost. Some of the universities did receive the laptops but then as the TVET colleges we didn’t receive any,” says one concerned student.

Below is social media responses to the Minister’s briefing:

In the video below, students voice their concerns:

Return to campus

Minister Nzimande says only 33% of the student student population will be allowed to return to campuses, delivery sites and residences under Level 3 lockdown, which is expected to kick in from June 1.

Nzimande says the return will be on condition that the students can be safely accommodated and supported in line with the health and safety protocols as directed by the Department

The Minister says his department is committed to saving the 2020 academic year while also saving lives.

He says the Higher Education sector has adopted the theme “Save the Academic Year Save Lives.”




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