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Canada will end its pre-entry COVID-19 testing requirement for all fully vaccinated travellers in two weeks after facing intense pressure from business and tourism groups to ease border restrictions.

A federal source said the rule will be lifted on April 1, but that on-arrival random testing will remain in effect to track new variants.

People who travel internationally risk getting stuck abroad if their prearrival test is positive under the current rules. The coming change won’t help families returning home in the March break travel rush, who will still need to get tested before their arrival in Canada.

Business and tourism groups say the testing requirement has taken Canada out of the running as a destination for vacation and business travel. Countries such as Britain have already removed any testing requirements but the United States still requires a negative antigen test for vaccinated travellers who arrive in the U.S. by air.

Passengers wait to be tested after they arrive at Toronto's Pearson airport, Feb. 15, 2021. REUTERS/Carlos OsorioCARLOS OSORIO/Reuters

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Ukraine, Russia signal progress in peace talks as attacks on civilians continue

Ukraine and Russia are signalling progress on a peace deal that would see Kyiv agree to international neutrality in exchange for the Kremlin ending its invasion, even as Ukrainian authorities say Russian forces are continuing to slaughter civilians.

Moscow said yesterday its negotiators and Ukraine’s, meeting over videoconference, are working on an arrangement in which Ukraine would adopt a status similar to those of Sweden and Austria. Both countries are members of the European Union and maintain militaries, but are not part of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov told reporters in Moscow that the two sides were “close to agreeing” on the wording of a deal. “Neutral status is now being seriously discussed along, of course, with security guarantees,” he said.

Mykhailo Podolyak, a negotiator on the Ukrainian side, said any agreement would also have to include “legally verified security guarantees” that ensure Western countries would protect Ukraine in case of a future invasion.

Inflation hits three-decade high as price pressures broaden

Canada’s inflation rate hit a three-decade high in February as consumers faced an array of price increases, adding pressure on the Bank of Canada to tame the situation with a speedy course of interest-rate hikes.

The Consumer Price Index rose 5.7 per cent in February from a year earlier, up from 5.1 per cent in January, Statistics Canada said on Wednesday. That was the highest inflation rate since August, 1991, and it marked the 11th consecutive month that inflation has surpassed the Bank of Canada’s target range of 1 per cent to 3 per cent.

Households are feeling the pinch on several fronts. Shelter costs rose 6.6 per cent, for the largest annual increase since 1983. Groceries rose 7.4 per cent, the most since 2009. And gas prices jumped 6.9 per cent in a single month.

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ALSO ON OUR RADAR

Ottawa extends assault weapons amnesty until 2023: The federal government is extending its amnesty for individuals in possession of recently prohibited “assault-style” firearms until the fall of 2023, saying it needs more time to finalize a mandatory buyback program announced in November as part of the Throne Speech.

Mexican journalist killed six weeks after colleague’s murder: Six weeks ago, journalist Armando Linares choked up in a video announcing the killing of a colleague and promised to continue doing journalism that exposed the corrupt. Now Linares too has been gunned down – the eighth journalist killed in Mexico this year.

Dust storm spreads out across Europe: A huge dust storm swirling over Europe from the Sahara desert made it hard to breathe in large parts of Spain for a second straight day yesterday and gave cleaning crews extra work as far away as Paris, London and Belgrade to remove the film of dirt falling on cars and buildings.


MORNING MARKETS

European markets turn mixed: European stocks wavered on Thursday following a widely anticipated U.S. interest rate hike. Just before 6 a.m. ET, Britain’s FTSE was off 0.07 per cent. Germany’s DAX slid 0.28 per cent while France’s CAC 40 was little changed. In Asia, Japan’s Nikkei jumped 3.46 per cent while Hong Kong’s Hang Seng gained 7.04 per cent. Wall Street futures were muted. The Canadian dollar was trading at 78.99 US cents.


WHAT EVERYONE’S TALKING ABOUT

Lawrence Martin: “... for Conservatives, the biggest incentive for a Charest vote is that he’s their best chance of seeing the last of Justin Trudeau.”

Robyn Urback: “We are a fickle species by nature, which is why the time to act on resettling Afghan refugees was back before another occasion of mass human suffering would capture the world’s attention. Seven months ago, we were captivated and horrified by images of Afghan citizens desperately clinging to planes while trying to evacuate Kabul to escape Taliban rule. This week, we are captivated and horrified by images of pregnant Ukrainian women clinging to their bellies as they evacuate a maternity hospital bombed in Mariupol. But even if the world’s focus is now elsewhere, the suffering in Afghanistan endures.”

John Doyle: “Even in the fog of war, we should honour dead journalists by telling the truth about them as people, rather than seeing them as representatives of some outlet or channel we dislike. There is a strength of feeling about Fox News and it has meant that Pierre Zakrzewski and Oleksandra Kuvshynova have been dishonoured.”


TODAY’S EDITORIAL CARTOON

Brian Gable/The Globe and Mail


LIVING BETTER

Cultural Diversions: 10 things to watch, read and listen to this week

In the face of heavy headlines, it’s important to take a break. To that end, here are some light diversions, from easy reads to must-see TV, recommended by The Globe and Mail’s Arts staff.


MOMENT IN TIME: MARCH 17, 1938

Russian-born ballet dancer Rudolf Nureyev during rehearsals with the National Ballet of Canada in Toronto, February 7, 1974.DENNIS ROBINSON/THE GLOBE AND MAIL

Dancer Rudolf Nureyev is born

Rudolf Hametovich Nureyev danced in front of thousands of fans, in the finest ballet houses in the world, with the top ballerinas, appeared on television and in movies, was adored for his gravity-defying leaps, fast turns, artistry, charisma, choreography and reinvention of ballet as an art form for a wider audience. He is often considered the finest male ballet dancer of his generation. However, his world debut was inauspicious. Nureyev, of peasant ancestry from the Tatar region of Mongolia, was born on this day in 1938 on a passenger train – the Trans-Siberian Railway, near Lake Baikal. The nearest city was Irkutsk, also known as the Paris of Siberia. Nureyev’s mother, Farida, was travelling with her three daughters to Vladivostok – a city in the extreme southeast part of Russia another three days’ train ride away – to be with her husband Hamet, who was a Red Army political commissar there. Nureyev’s birth was premature and may actually have occurred a few days before it was officially recorded. Nureyev’s father was physically distant at his son’s birth and the two were emotionally distant in later years, too. Hamet disapproved of his son’s career choice, saying that dancing wasn’t manly. Philip King


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