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Good evening, let’s start with today’s top stories:

Canada is imposing multiple restrictions on travel from countries in the southern region of Africa, including banning all foreign nationals who travelled there in the last 14 days and requiring anyone already in Canada to immediately go into quarantine.

Health Minister Jean-Yves Duclos and Transport Minister Omar Alghabra announced the changes at a news conference in Ottawa on Friday. The measures were rolled out shortly after the World Health Organization said the new COVID-19 strain, first identified in South Africa, is a variant of concern. The international group dubbed the latest variant Omicron.

The countries affected by the travel rules are: South Africa, Mozambique, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Lesotho, Eswatini and Namibia. Preliminary evidence suggests that the new variant has a growth advantage over other variants, allowing it to spread faster, and has an increased risk of reinfection, WHO said.

Global wave of travel bans

The discovery of the complex new COVID-19 variant with dozens of mutations, detected in five countries and igniting a rapid surge of cases in South Africa, has also triggered a wave of travel bans and border controls in many countries worldwide.

Britain announced a ban on flights from South Africa and several other African countries on Thursday. On Friday, a large number of countries issued similar bans, including Britain, Germany, Italy, Austria, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, Malaysia, Israel, Hong Kong and the United States, which prohibited foreign nationals from several countries in southern Africa.

The emergence of the potent new variant has rattled financial markets around the world, as fears of losing progress in the fight against the pandemic took hold. Taking cues from sharp sell-offs in Asia and Europe, North American stock benchmarks headed downward.

More variant-related news:
  • In genetic arms race with COVID-19 variants, Canada’s labs fight for better ways to share findings with each other and the world
  • ‘Fear has gripped the financial markets’: What investors are saying about the new COVID-19 variant

People wait at OR Tambo's airport in Johannesburg, South Africa, Nov. 26, 2021.Jerome Delay/The Associated Press

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France calls off talks with Britain as rift grows over English Channel migrant drownings

The growing row between France and Britain over how to stop migrants from crossing the English Channel escalated on Friday after French Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin abruptly called off a meeting with his British counterpart, Home Secretary Priti Patel.

The ministers were supposed to meet on Sunday in Calais to co-ordinate efforts to tackle the crossings in the wake of the deaths of at least 27 migrants who drowned on Wednesday. Officials from Belgium, the Netherlands and Germany were also expected to take part in the talks.

The number of migrant crossings has soared in recent months as desperate people from war-torn countries such as Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan and Sudan pour into Calais in the hope of getting to the U.K.

Activists and members of associations defending migrants' rights stand next to a banner reading "309 dead on the France U.K. border since 1999", during a gathering outside the port of Calais, northern France, Nov. 25, 2021.Rafael Yaghobzadeh/The Associated Press

Report says federal deficit stood at $68.6-billion halfway through fiscal year, Freeland to meet with economists

Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland is meeting with private-sector economists Friday ahead of a promised fall fiscal update, while a new report from her department shows the federal deficit stood at $68.6-billion at the halfway point of the current fiscal year.

Freeland told reporters earlier this week that the Liberal government is planning to release “some form of fiscal update this fall.” Federal deficit projections have not been formally updated by the government since the minister released a budget in April.

Finance Canada’s monthly fiscal monitor report, which tracks federal spending and revenue trends, said the $68.6-billion deficit from April to September compares to a deficit of $198.1-billion during the same six months a year earlier as Canada dealt with the initial waves of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Read more:
  • Liberal government moves to criminalize intimidation of health care workers, introduce 10 sick days for federally regulated workers
  • Expanded sick leave set to become a pandemic legacy, even as federal, provincial programs flop

Minister of Finance and Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland holds a press conference in Ottawa on Nov. 24, 2021.Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press


ALSO ON OUR RADAR

Residents of Merritt, B.C., return home after evacuation to find destruction and sorrow

Merritt looks like it was hit by an earthquake, not a flood. Wasted, toppled vehicles lay buried in six feet of sand. Downed telephone poles lie criss-crossed in the silt, like a giant’s chopsticks. Two streets appear to no longer exist. … Only now that the flood has finally receded can the full scope of the catastrophe register.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky says Russian-backed group planned coup: The alleged conspiracy comes at a time of extreme tensions between Moscow and Kyiv, with Russia having massed an invasion-sized force around its contested borders with Ukraine. The Kremlin, which says its troop movements are routine, denied involvement in a plan to unseat Zelensky.

Early bird Black Friday shoppers find U.S. stores less crowded than in past years: A shift online, COVID-19 fears and less-steep discounts have thinned crowds on the day after the U.S. Thanksgiving holiday, which kicks off the year-end shopping season. Many shoppers are also choosing curbside pickup rather than venturing inside.

Canada Goose goes viral in China – for all the wrong reasons: Canada Goose was the number one topic on social media platform Weibo on Friday, with more than 240 million views on posts about the brand. Just why Canada Goose was trending, however, will have significantly dampened executives’ spirits, and perhaps their hopes for a China-led surge in purchasing this winter.

Job vacancies soar beyond one million in tightening labour market: Job vacancies have soared to unprecedented numbers in Canada, the latest sign that employers are struggling to fill positions in an increasingly tight labour market. At the start of September, there were slightly more than one million unfilled positions, Statistics Canada said Thursday. Vacancies jumped 16.4 per cent – about 143,000 – from August.


MARKET WATCH

The emergence of what could be a powerful new variant of the novel coronavirus rattled financial markets around the world on Friday, as fears of losing progress in the fight against the pandemic took hold. Taking cues from sharp selloffs earlier in the day in Asia and Europe, North American stock benchmarks headed downward.

The Toronto Stock Exchange’s S&P/TSX composite index unofficially closed down 487.28 points, or 2.25 per cent, at 21,125.90.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average lost 2.53 per cent at 34,899.34 in its largest percentage drop in more than a year. The S&P 500 lost 2.27 per cent, its worst one-day drop since Feb. 25, and the Nasdaq Composite dropped 2.23 per cent, the biggest one-day route in two months.

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TALKING POINTS

Quebec objects to one person, one vote in principle. Canada merely fails to practise it

“One hundred and fifty-four years after Confederation, what is shaping up to be the biggest fight of the new Parliament? Representation by population.” – Andrew Coyne

A sign of our debased times: Vulgarity is on the rise, wit is in decline

“In the U.S., particularly among Republicans, anti-intellectualism knows no bounds. Repartee has been reduced to blasphemy. Former politician Morris “Mo” Udall would find wit aplenty – halfwits, dimwits and nitwits.” – Lawrence Martin

Donald Trump may run, and win, in 2024. Canada must prepare now to protect global democracy

“A second Trump term would make Canada more vulnerable than ever before. But there are steps we can take now to minimize the damage to ourselves and the world if he is re-elected.” – Richard Albert and Allan Rock

Investors are pouring fuel onto a hot housing market. The consequences could hurt everyone

“Today’s housing market is the result of decades of public policy that has led to too little housing. Low interest rates, rising immigration and economic growth have all helped send prices into the stratosphere. Investors are a factor – and their role may make an already stretched market potentially fragile. If things go backward, the pain could be widespread.” – The Editorial Board


LIVING BETTER

Seniors have a lot of stuff: Here’s how to downsize instead of dumping it all on heirs

The rise of retail and mass production since the end of the Second World War has put more things in the reach of more people than ever before. As a result, baby boomers have a lot of stuff.

As awkward as it may be, Elaine Birchall, a counsellor with expertise in hoarding behaviour, encourages families to have open discussions to decide together who will get what and what will be sold or donated.


TODAY’S LONG READ

Holiday gift ideas for everyone on your list, from the techie to the art enthusiast

Illustration by Salini Perera

To take the guessing game out of holiday shopping, The Globe and Mail asked 10 Canadians, each experts in their field, for tips on how to find the perfect gift for everyone on your list. Inspired by their advice, we compiled suggestions that will delight and surprise.

Evening Update is written by Emerald Bensadoun. If you’d like to receive this newsletter by e-mail every weekday evening, go here to sign up. If you have any feedback, send us a note.