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Standard Bank ready to assist clients amid coronavirus outbreak
23 March 2020, 12:18 PM

Standard Bank has advised its customers, concerned over mortgage payments amid the economic impact of the coronavirus outbreak, to contact the bank to arrange for personalised solutions.

This after Standard Bank announced a three-month payment holiday  for small business owners and students with loans to give some relief to clients as the country battles the coronavirus pandemic. Businesses must have a turnover of less than R20 million per year to qualify.

Standard Bank’s head of personal and business banking, Funeka Montjane, has urged those with mortgages to act early to find a solution.

“To our customers who have mortgages we say we understand, some people are going to get paid, some have savings, those who can’t we have sent them messages that say call us and we will do a personalised solution for you. In 2010 we found ourselves with about 15% of our customers who are unable to pay their mortgages for three or more months. We simply asked them to call us and we were able to restructure and make plans. For 99% of them, they kept to those agreements. There are many things that we can do, but the most important thing is don’t keep quiet, speak early, we’ll find a solution together,” says Montjane.

The video below is about Standard Bank’s head of personal and business banking, Funeka Montjane, saying clients who are in good standing will qualify automatically for the reprieve.

Cameron van der Burgh speaks out about the effects of contracting COVID-19
23 March 2020, 9:33 AM

Former South Africa swimmer Cameron van der Burgh has spoken out on social media about the effects of contracting coronavirus (COVID-19).

He’s also warned athletes about training with the virus, and trying to get back into action too soon. Van der Burgh says he’s been struggling with COVID-19 for two weeks, and described it as the worst virus he’s ever endured. That’s despite the fact that he’s young, fit and healthy.


He says even though the worst is over, he’s struggling to get rid of the cough, and that even short walks leave him exhausted. He also says the loss of body conditioning has been immense and sympathises with those potential Olympic athletes still trying to keep up with their training.

The International Olympic Committee hasn’t made an announcement regarding the Tokyo Olympics, although it seems more and more likely that they will be postponed. Van der Burgh warns against returning to training too soon, and signs off his twitter thread with “health Comes First – Covid 19 is no joke”.

Below is the statement from the Department of Health on latest confirmed cases in SA:

Three-time Olympic gold medalists Tadahiro Nomura and Saori Yoshida light the Olympic Flame
Japan says Tokyo Olympics may be postponed due to coronavirus
23 March 2020, 8:11 AM

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said for the first time on Monday that the Tokyo Olympic Games may need to be postponed if the event cannot be held in its “complete form” due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) said on Sunday after an emergency meeting that it is stepping up its “scenario planning” for the 2020 Games due to start on July 24, including a possible postponement.

Abe said while cancelling the Games was not an option, a delay was now on the cards if the event could not be held in its complete form.

“If that becomes difficult, we may have no option but to consider postponing the Games,” he told parliament.

He said he had conveyed his views to Tokyo Games chief Yoshiro Mori on Sunday evening, who then discussed the issue with IOC President Thomas Bach.

Under mounting pressure from athletes, federations and national committees to postpone the Games, the IOC did a partial U-turn on Sunday after long insisting, with Tokyo organisers, that the Games would go ahead as planned.

Tokyo 2020 organisers have started drafting alternative dates for the Olympics, sources have told Reuters.

More than 14,600 people have died globally since the coronavirus outbreak began in China late last year, with the epicentre now in Europe.

As of Sunday morning, Japan had 37 deaths and 1,055 coronavirus cases, excluding those from a cruise ship that was quarantined near Tokyo last month and returnees on chartered flights from China, a tally by public broadcaster NHK showed.

Echoing Abe’s remarks on potential Olympics delays, Tokyo’s governor Yuriko Koike said the pace of coronavirus infection rates in the city was becoming faster, asking people to refrain from public gatherings for the next three weeks.

At the current speed, the number of patients with coronavirus in Tokyo is expected grow by 530 through April 8, according to experts advising the city.

As of March 22, the number of confirmed cases in Tokyo was 130, with four dead, the Tokyo government said.

Prime Minister Abe said all travellers from the United States, including Japanese citizens, would be asked to go into quarantine for 14 days after their arrival in Japan.

In the United States nearly one in three residents has been ordered to stay at home to slow the spread of the flu-like virus as cases nationwide topped 32,000, with more than 415 dead, according to a Reuters tally.

Japan’s foreign ministry has advised citizens to avoid non-essential and non-urgent travel to the United States.

Below is a Live Tracking of the cases, death toll and other information, updated daily:

ZCC gathering
KZN Zion church distances itself from calls that Easter pilgrimage should continue
23 March 2020, 6:36 AM

Leaders of other Zion churches in KwaZulu-Natal have distanced themselves from a call made by Bishop Bheki Ngcobo for congregants to go in their numbers on the annual Easter pilgrimage.

Ngcobo’s statement defied President Cyril Ramaphosa’s ban on gatherings of more than 100 people to contain the spread of COVID-19.

Norman Mkhize of the Nyonini Mission in Madadeni in Newcastle and Pastor Mumtuza Majola of the Unity Church in Ntuzuma say they fully support the government’s measures.

“As Nyonini Mission we took a resolution to abide by the President’s decision, as the Bible tells us to respect the rulers. We will follow all the precautions made by the President. Ngcobo is not representing our views. This is not the time for argument. It’s not a time that everyone must come forward and raise a point or try to explain what government is saying. We as leaders we have to support and protect the lives of the South African people. As the Zionist we are totally against what Mr Bheki Ngcobo is saying that he is talking on behalf of the Zionist. He is pushing his mandate or politics. As the church of the Zionist we are against that, we are saying we are not the part of that,” says Mkhize.

Meanwhile, as churches scale down services due to the coronavirus, some are taking advantage of technology  to reach their members

Government has issued guidelines prohibiting public gatherings of more than 100 people at a time.

Tshepo Phagane visited Soweto to check how churches are dealing with the new regulations; what measures they’ve put in place to deal with the virus, and how they ensure they keep worshipping with the cancellation of some services.

In the video below, Bishop Ngcobo says this is a time for prayer:

He found it was an unusual day of worship at most churches in Soweto with fewer members than usual. In some churches, members had to be turned away in order to adhere to the guidelines announced by the President, one of which prohibits public gatherings of more than 100 people at a time.

A pastor from the Life-Changing Ministries in Meadowlands, who prefers anonymity, says it was one of the most difficult decisions he had to make.

“It is very difficult in a way that it is like you taking away something that someone lives and to say you can’t worship God anymore because of this. It’s painful. I turned away a lot of people today. I would say today the maximum is 90,” says the pastor.

In this video, church leaders enforce measures against coronavirus:

man wearing protective mask
Syria confirms first coronavirus case as fears grow it could spread
23 March 2020, 5:40 AM

War-ravaged Syria on Sunday confirmed its first case of the coronavirus after weeks of rejecting opposition allegations that the disease had already reached a country with a wrecked health system and thousands of Iranian-backed militias and Shi’ite pilgrims.

Health Minister Nizar al-Yaziji told state media “necessary measures” had been taken regarding the 20-year-old woman, who he said would be quarantined for 14 days and given medical checks.

There have been unconfirmed reports in recent weeks of coronavirus cases in Syria, whose health system, housing and infrastructure have been ravaged by nine years of civil war, but the authorities have denied any outbreak or cover-up.

The virus has been spreading in neighbouring countries.

UN officials and humanitarian workers fear a major outbreak in Syria could be particularly catastrophic.

Damascus announced a ban on public transport on Sunday as it stepped up a lockdown introduced in recent days, including the closure of schools, parks, restaurants and various public institutions, as well as calling off army conscription.

President Bashar al Assad issued a prisoner amnesty on Sunday, according to state media, which said it was a move to relieve congestion that risked the spread of the virus.

In an unprecedented move, bakeries across the country would no longer open for citizens and bread would be delivered by distributors to homes to prevent mingling by customers during hours waiting in long queues, state media said.

Medics say the country is also vulnerable with thousands of Iranian-backed militias fighting alongside Assad’s forces, who maintain a strong presence in Syria’s big cities and have their headquarters in the Damascus Shi’ite suburb of Sayeda Zainab.

Thousands of Shi’ite pilgrims from Iran also visit Damascus.

Iran, one of the countries most affected by the pandemic outside China, is Syria’s main regional ally and operates military and civilian flights that bring the militia fighters into the country.

Iran’s Mahan Air still has regular flights from Tehran to Damascus, according to Western diplomats tracking Syria, even though other Syrian flights have been suspended.

Iranian-backed militias also still enter Syria using the Al Bukamal border crossing with Iraq, where the virus is spreading, according to local residents and Western intelligence sources.

The army’s general command announced on Saturday it had raised the level of preparedness in military hospitals and gave orders to minimise gatherings, including military sports activities or any that take place in closed areas.

“We have taken a number of steps … to protect our sons in their residences in military units and formations and order the use of gloves and masks,” an army statement said.

Military defectors say a number of senior officers had taken leave and in some units commanders have given orders to avoid mingling with Iranian-backed militias seen as higher risk of spreading the virus.

Medics in the opposition-held northwest also fear the coronavirus could spread quickly in crowded camps for tens of thousands of displaced Syrians who fled months of relentless Russian-backed bombing of rebel-held areas. US-backed Kurdish led forces in north western Syria and Turkey-backed opposition groups also closed crossings for fear the infection could come from government-held areas.

Below is a Live Tracking of the cases, death toll and other information, updated daily:

 

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