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World News

N.B. teachers produce lip-sync music videos to cheer up students amid COVID-19 school closures

Some creative teachers in New Brunswick have put together a series of lip-sync music videos to cheer up their students who are unable to attend school due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Kirk Geldart is a teacher at Moncton High School and said he was more than happy to take part in the video produced by his school, because he wanted to help cheer up his students.

“Just so that they know that we are thinking of them and just to try and help them lighten their day a little bit,” said Geldart.

He said dealing with the impact of the pandemic has been stressful for students and teachers. He said the videos are meant to give the kids a lift and to let them know that their teachers are there for them even if they cannot be in the classroom.

“We have good days and bad days, and we have really silly fun days like what we show in the video,” he said.

Chris West’s wife Lindsay also took part in the videos, which have been produced by several schools across the province.

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“It also allowed some of the teachers to really go outside of their zone to entertain the students,” said Chris.

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World News

‘Not the time to joke around’: Halifax police issue warning on lying about COVID-19

Halifax police are asking the public to tell the truth about possible exposure to COVID-19.

Given the current circumstances first responders are now asking people, both at the dispatch level and then again in person, questions related to COVID-19 exposures.

“They may ask have you travelled, are you experiencing symptoms, those common questions,” said Halifax Regional Police spokesperson Const. John MacLeod.

But in recent weeks, some officers have been reporting that people are falsely claiming to have been exposed to the virus.

“It certainly is not the time to joke around about something like this,” said MacLeod.

“Even in jest, it requires us to take elevated steps to make sure everyone is safe.”

Those steps include forcing officers to self-isolate if they were possibly exposed, until they can verify whether or not it’s true and if the officers were at risk.

“Officers have been delayed for a number of days in relation to this,” said MacLeod, adding that it can put a strain on resources as they need to find others to replace those in self-isolation.

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MacLeod also says it’s important for people to be honest in the other direction. If someone has been exposed or has symptoms, they must alert first responders as soon as possible.

All first responders, including officers, have masks, gloves and other personal equipment they can use if need be, but they need to know.

In Newfoundland, the provincial health minister has said that four paramedic teams are self-isolating after responding to calls where they were potentially exposed to the virus without being alerted ahead of time.

So far, MacLeod says that hasn’t happened to any police officers in Halifax, but he says it is important people understand the value of honesty in this situation.

“We’re trying to do our part with the rest of the community and the health authority and the other community partners to let folks know what we can do to help further prevent the exposure of this COVID-19 virus,” said MacLeod.

Questions about COVID-19? Here are some things you need to know:

Health officials caution against all international travel. Returning travellers are legally obligated to self-isolate for 14 days, beginning March 26, in case they develop symptoms and to prevent spreading the virus to others. Some provinces and territories have also implemented additional recommendations or enforcement measures to ensure those returning to the area self-isolate.

Symptoms can include fever, cough and difficulty breathing — very similar to a cold or flu. Some people can develop a more severe illness. People most at risk of this include older adults and people with severe chronic medical conditions like heart, lung or kidney disease. If you develop symptoms, contact public health authorities.

To prevent the virus from spreading, experts recommend frequent handwashing and coughing into your sleeve. They also recommend minimizing contact with others, staying home as much as possible and maintaining a distance of two metres from other people if you go out.

For full COVID-19 coverage from Global News, click here.

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Politics

PM and ministers to take three-month pay cut in solidarity with Singaporeans coping with coronavirus

SINGAPORE – The Prime Minister, Cabinet ministers and other political office-holders – as well as the President – will take a three-month pay cut to stand in solidarity with Singaporeans in this difficult time, Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat said on Thursday (March 26).

Mr Heng, who is also Finance Minister, said that political office-holders will take an additional two-month pay cut on top of the one-month pay cut announced last month, in light of the deteriorating situation caused by the coronavirus.

“The President, Speaker and both Deputy Speakers have informed me that they will join in and take a similar three-month pay cut in total,” said Mr Heng, as he delivered the Supplementary Budget.

“It is in times of crisis that the true character of a nation can be seen,” he added. “We are all in this together, and we must all look after one another in these trying times.”

Calling the Covid-19 situation an “unprecedented crisis” that has escalated very quickly, Mr Heng said it has prompted the Government to take extraordinary measures and put together a landmark supplementary budget.

Delivering a ministerial statement that outlined the Government’s thinking behind what he has called the Resilience Budget, Mr Heng said the coronavirus is a defining challenge for Singapore.

“It is a public health crisis, an economic shock, and a social test,” he said. “It will challenge our resilience as individuals and as a society.”

Mr Heng noted that just five weeks after he delivered his Budget speech on Feb 18, the world is now facing a pandemic, with an estimated 410,000 people infected across 190 countries.

While Singapore acted early and decisively and managed to keep the number of cases to a manageable level during the first wave of infections, the world is now seeing successive waves and imported infections, prompting countries to take public health measures, said Mr Heng.

But measures on the medical front to contain the pandemic have made the economic battle more difficult, he added.

“As more countries implement their measures, the economic disruptions will be wider, deeper, and more prolonged,” said Mr Heng. “The global economy is now facing both a supply and demand shock.”

He noted how lockdowns have had knock-on effects, given today’s highly-integrated global supply chains, while people staying home mean that spending has fallen, while business confidence is plunging in the face of growing uncertainties.

Global financial and stock markets are also in turmoil, while credit has tightened around the world, he added.

As an open economy that is highly integrated with the global economy, Singapore will be deeply impacted by these global shocks, said Mr Heng.

He noted that advance GDP estimates released on Thursday (March 26) showed that the economy contracted by 10.6 per cent in the first quarter of 2020, and the Ministry of Trade and Industry has downgraded the Republic’s GDP growth forecast for the year to between minus 4.0 per cent and minus 1.0 per cent.

“In economic terms alone, this will likely be the worst economic contraction since independence,” said Mr Heng.

The Resilience Budget, which will introduce over $48 billion in new and enhanced measures, is therefore focused on three areas: protecting jobs, helping enterprises with immediate challenges, and strengthening economic and social resilience so that Singapore can emerge intact and stronger.

“We cannot prevent an economic recession as the external health and economic situation will evolve beyond our control,” he said. “But it will help us to mitigate the extent of the downturn, and more importantly, help save jobs and protect livelihoods.”

The Resilience Budget is also a reminder that the battle against Covid-19 is waged not just on the medical and economic fronts, but that the virus is also a test of Singapore’s social cohesion and psychological resilience, said Mr Heng.

“This reflects our determination that Singapore and Singaporeans remain resilient in the face of these challenges,” he said. “Come what may, no matter how daunting the challenge at hand, we will bounce back, stronger and more united than ever, as we weather this storm together.”

Concluding, Mr Heng pledged that the Government will lead the way in the fight against Covid-19 by doing its best to anticipate and respond to developments, make decisions based on facts and evidence, and exercise judgment when there are trade-offs.

“The Government and the political leadership are in this with Singaporeans,” he said. “We share the worries and anxieties of Singaporeans, and we will do our best for them.

“We will walk with every Singaporean, through every up and down.”

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Politics

To see Singapore through Covid-19, essential to have strongest team and mandate with longest runway: PM Lee

SINGAPORE – Singapore is facing a very big storm that will require the strongest leadership team with the strongest mandate to see it through the crisis, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said on Friday (March 27).

This team will also need “the longest runway so that Singapore can have the best leadership” to overcome the coronavirus pandemic, Mr Lee told reporters at the Istana.

“That’s a very desirable – in fact, essential – requirement for us to see through this together,” he said.

Asked about how he will decide on when to call a general election, Mr Lee said the ideal situation is that things will settle within the next six months, and then an election can be held.

“But nobody can say – it may well get worse, and I expect it can easily get worse before it gets better,” said Mr Lee.

“You have to make a judgment in this situation with an outbreak going on, with all sorts of exceptional measures implemented in Singapore, is it possible for us to conduct an election and to get this done so that we clear the decks and we can go through and deal with whatever lies ahead?”

Mr Lee noted that in a state of general shutdown, such as in the United Kingdom, an election would be difficult, as the logistics of getting ballot boxes in place and voting would be difficult.

“But short of that situation, even when you have restrictions and some safe distancing measures, life still goes on: People are working, people can travel, people can conduct the poll,” he said

He noted that countries like Israel have carried out elections recently, as has the United States, where most states carried on with primary elections.

Social media and the Internet mean that while the situation might not be ideal, an election can carry on with appropriate measures in place.

“These are, to a large extent, solvable problems,” he said. “You have to think of solutions for them, but it can be done, and I think that we have to weigh conducting an election under abnormal circumstances, against going into a storm with a (government) mandate which is reaching the end of its term.”

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Sports

Age concern: Six stars for whom Olympics in 2021 may come too late

PARIS (AFP) – With the 2020 Olympics postponed until 2021, there are fears the delay will shatter the gold medal hopes of many ageing athletes.

AFP Sport looks at six evergreen stars for whom a delayed Tokyo Games might be a step too far.

Roger Federer

The 20-time Grand Slam champion, who will be 40 in August 2021, won Olympic gold when he partnered Stan Wawrinka to the men’s doubles title at the 2008 Beijing Games. Federer was a quarter-finalist in singles in China, silver medallist in 2012 in London before injury forced him skip the 2016 Games in Rio.

In Sydney, in 2000, Federer made the semi-finals in singles but he still remembers Australia fondly as it was the place where he first started his romance with Mirka Vavrinec, who is now his wife.

“Overall it was probably the most unbelievable Olympics I ever had,” said Federer, who was also Switzerland’s flag-bearer in Beijing and in Athens in 2004 where he exited in the second round.

Serena Williams

The American great will be 40 in September next year although her desire to play in Tokyo might not be as pressing as that of Federer.

Williams already has four Olympic gold medals – singles at London in 2012 and women’s doubles with sister Venus in 2000, 2008 in Beijing and London four years later.

The sisters lost their opening round match in Rio in 2016 while Serena’s gold medal defence in the singles was ended by Elina Svitolina in the third round.

Tiger Woods

Woods, who will be 46 in December next year, would have struggled to make the US team for the Games if they had remained in their 2020 slot. He is currently only the sixth-ranked American with just the top four guaranteed to make the squad.

Woods, the winner of 15 majors, has been fighting a recurrence of a back injury so at least the delay to 2021 for the Olympics gives him renewed hope of a golden swansong.

Organisers would be desperate for Woods to play after he missed the return of golf at the 2016 Games in Rio due to injury.

Lin Dan

The colourful and controversial Chinese badminton superstar will be 37 by the time the next Games roll around.

Lin already has gold from Beijing in 2008 and London four years later, adding to his five world titles.

However, there is a hint of unfinished business for Lin who was defeated in the bronze medal match in Rio in 2016 having been downed in the semi-finals by great rival Lee Chong Wei, the man he had beaten in the 2008 and 2012 Olympic finals.

Allyson Felix

The only female track and field athlete in history to win six Olympic gold medals, Felix had spent the last two years preparing for a golden farewell at the Tokyo Olympics.

Felix, who turns 35 at the end of this year, will be racing against Father Time as she attempts to improve her medal tally in what will be her fifth consecutive Olympics appearance.

The American star can take comfort from the fact she is by no means the oldest woman to chase Olympic glory in sprint events. Merlene Ottey was 40 when she anchored Jamaica’s 4x100m relay team to a bronze medal in 2000.

Justin Gatlin

Gatlin had planned to retire in 2020 after competing in his fourth Olympics at the age of 38. However the controversial American star now plans to extend his career in order to compete in the rescheduled Tokyo Games.

“I think a lot of people think that time is against me or against older athletes in this situation, and it’s far from the truth,” said Gatlin, who has twice served suspensions for drug offences during his career.

Gatlin, the 2004 Olympic champion, though could face a battle to even qualify given the depth of the US men’s sprinting squad, with Christian Coleman and Noah Lyles the favourites in the 100m and 200m.

But there will be plenty of time for this pair: Syrian table tennis player Hend Zaza was set to become the youngest athlete at the Tokyo Olympics – at just 11 years old.

She would not have been alone in Japan as professional skateboarder Sky Brown – only five months older – was hoping to compete for Great Britain.

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Sports

Olympics: Delay means $17 billion Tokyo Games just got more expensive

(BLOOMBERG) – The decision to delay the Tokyo 2020 Olympics until next year means taxpayers and sponsors likely will have to fork over billions of dollars more just as the global economy caves in during the coronavirus pandemic.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and International Olympic Committee Chairman Thomas Bach agreed on an unprecedented postponement of the event for about a year as the world grapples with the coronavirus infection.

It is the first time the games have been delayed since they began in the 19th century.

Now Abe’s administration, along with organisers and the Tokyo local government, have to start figuring out the costs associated with that decision – and who’s going to pay them.

“When you have to change your plans in projects like this, it’s like turning a supertanker around, and it’s really expensive,” said Bent Flyvbjerg, a professor at the University of Oxford’s Said Business School who wrote a study of Olympic cost overruns.

“The only thing you can do at this stage is keep paying the bills.”

Japan’s organising committee said in December the event would cost 1.35 trillion yen (S$17 billion), the bulk of which would be covered by themselves and the Tokyo Metropolitan Government.

The Nikkei newspaper, citing the group, said Wednesday the delay would trigger about 300 billion yen in additional costs.

A professor at Kansai University, Katsuhiro Miyamoto, recently published an estimate of 422 billion yen in extra costs for a one-year postponement, with another 218 billion-yen hit to the economy on top of that, excluding any effects from the pandemic.

Japan’s organising committee will be seeking more cash from sponsors and the government, with individual sports associations likely to face financial difficulties, the body’s president, Yasuhiro Yamashita, said Wednesday.

The amount of funding needed is not known yet, he said.

Much of the extra costs likely will accrue from having to retain staff, who otherwise would have been let go once the games ended, Flyvbjerg said. Mitigating these outlays by putting workers on other projects likely will be hard, given the current global economic stagnation.

“The world is not the same as it used to be, so who needs more people right now?” Flyvbjerg said.

Olympic Facilities Maintaining venues that suddenly will be empty during the July-September schedule for the Olympics and Paralympics also will be a burden. Miyamoto estimated that extra care for the 45 venues will cost about 22 billion yen.

Some Olympic facilities already are booked for other events next summer, potentially forcing organizers to pay for alternatives. And sports federations may need to hold extra competitions to select representatives for the 2021 games.

Not least of the concerns is the fate of the athletes’ village, where many apartments already were sold to people expecting to occupy them in 2023.

The Covid-19 outbreak also introduces a huge element of doubt in planning for next year. Abe bills the event as one to mark humanity’s victory over the virus, yet no one knows whether the pandemic will be under control by then.

With Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike calling on the capital’s residents to stay at home this weekend in a bid to slow infections, further delays cannot be ruled out, nor can the eventual abandonment of the effort.

Flyvbjerg’s research shows that Olympic costs always outstrip estimates, with the most extreme example being Montreal in 1976, which had a 760 per cent overrun.

“If it happened, God forbid, that the games got cancelled altogether, it would be a huge waste of money,” he said.

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Sports

Rugby: RFU faces losses of up to $86 million in next 18 months due to coronavirus

LONDON (REUTERS) – The Rugby Football Union (RFU) faces losses of up to £50 million (S$86 million) over the next year and a half due to the coronavirus, chief executive Bill Sweeney said on Wednesday (March 25).

The body will, however provide a 7 million-pound ($8.3 million) relief package to community clubs in England, he added in a statement after a virtual board meeting with members participating remotely.

The RFU and Wales’ governing body WRU confirmed last week the end of the 2019-20 season for all league, cup and county rugby, with the exception of the English Premiership, due to the pandemic.

England’s top-flight competition is suspended until at least April 24, with nine rounds and the playoffs still to be played.

Sweeney said the closure of Twickenham stadium, the RFU’s biggest asset and also a major cost, had a significant impact on revenues.

“Based on our planning assumption we estimate RFU revenue losses over the next 18 months to be approximately £45-£50 million and have a firm plan in place to mitigate this,” he said.

“The RFU Executive Team will be taking a cut in remuneration in excess of 25 per cent. In addition, combined Board fees will be reduced by 75 per cent.”

The BBC reported that while the pay cuts do not apply to England head coach Eddie Jones, believed to be the RFU’s highest-paid individual, it understood measures were being looked into which could involve him and his coaching staff being paid less.

Sweeney said the RFU had budgeted for a loss-making year within a four-year cycle due to the costs of the 2019 World Cup campaign and hosting only two home Six Nations games.

Four Six Nations matches were postponed due to the coronavirus.

“No one can predict every possible outcome of the Covid-19 outbreak particularly with regard to the duration of this crisis and we are managing in the unknown,” Sweeney said.

“We have modelled three potential scenarios and are working on an assumption based on a medium-term impact with a view to a return to rugby in the autumn.”

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World News

Durham soccer programs staying connected from afar amid coronavirus pandemic

Social distancing doesn’t appear to be going anywhere any time soon but some soccer programs in Durham Region have found ways for players to connect from a distance.

Kicking the soccer ball around from 20 feet is the closest Chase Mason and Andreas Vassiliou have been in almost two weeks.

Soccer is what these under-16 boys eat, sleep and breathe but the coronavirus pandemic has changed things.

“I can’t be out here on the field with my teammates and stuff, so I’ve been doing work at home but just not the same,” said Mason, an FC Durham fullback.

So over the past few days, the FC Durham club has created a video. It’s an idea Vassiliou came up with after seeing similar toilet paper challenge videos online and gives them all a reason to reconnect from home.

In the video, players juggle toilet paper in a series of shots spliced together to make it appear as though they are passing the toilet paper to each other.

“They could do any tricks they want, I just let them know where the toilet paper should come in from and exit,” said Vassiliou, FC Durham midfielder.

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“It was actually a lot of fun because we’ve been pretty bored at the house,” said Mason.

FC Durham Academy manager Tom Croft was impressed with the final result.

“When I seen it I was quite happy, skill level was good,” Croft said.

It’s been a difficult transition since the academy temporarily closed. Most of the players have been together for the past five years.

“Missing our training sessions, just our time together and everything, it’s the worst,” said Vassiliou.

Croft feels for the players.

“They’re energetic, they love the game, they want to get out and play and now they’re pretty much stuck in the house making it out for maybe half an hour to 45 minutes a day. So I feel really bad for them that they’re missing that time,” he said.

Juggling toilet paper is one way to continue building team camaraderie, but in Pickering, the football club has issued its own video challenge to its players to keep them active and their skills sharp.

Pickering FC grassroots director Hollie Babut created the PFC challenge, in which participants send in videos of themselves performing a variety of skills.

In just a few days, she says the club has received over 200 participants.

“I think using the social media platform to keep them engaged with each other has been a good thing to keep them at least involved with each other,” said Babut.

The club won’t run out of challenges in the near future.

“We have our keep-up challenge,” said Babut.

Pickering FC hopes they can return to the pitch soon.

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Business

Malaysians living and working in Singapore can remit money at Maybank without transfer fees

SINGAPORE (THE BUSINESS TIMES) – Maybank announced on Wednesday (March 25) that it is offering complimentary remittance services for Malaysians working and living in Singapore who have been affected by Malaysia’s movement control order.

Malaysian customers may visit any Maybank branch to remit funds without a transfer fee to any Malaysian bank account at “attractive” exchange rates from March 25 till April 14, 2020. This is limited to transfers to and from individual accounts.

Mr Alvin Lee, head of community financial services and group wealth management of Maybank Singapore, said: “We are committed to supporting the community and hope that this complimentary remittance initiative provides some relief for them, and their family members will be able to receive the funds they need in a timely manner.”

The bank had previously introduced relief measures such as Home Loan Repayment Relief to existing customers whose incomes have been affected by the Covid-19 outbreak. It also offered complimentary Covid-19 and dengue fever insurance coverage for all individual Maybank customers.

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World News

Coronavirus: London Drugs reserves last hour of shopping for frontline workers

Canadian pharmacy and retailer London Drugs is reserving the last hour of the shopping day for workers on the the front lines of the novel coronavirus pandemic.

The company says starting Wednesday, the store will be reserved for health care workers and first responders from 8 p.m to 9 p.m. Monday to Saturday, and 7 p.m. to 8 p.m. on Sundays.

“We are offering frontline workers a dedicated time to get their shopping done as easy and as stress-free as possible. They often work long shifts and many stores are closed by the time they are off their day shifts,” said London Drugs president and CEO Clint Mahlman in a media release.

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