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Good morning,

These are the top stories:

Canadian economy braces for downturn on plunging oil prices, coronavirus fears

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A potent mix of sharply lower oil prices and the coronavirus outbreak has left the Canadian economy bracing for a downturn. Benchmark oil prices tumbled about 25 per cent on Monday after OPEC failed to agree on production cuts, leading Saudi Arabia to slash its crude prices. Markets were thrown into turmoil, with Canada’s benchmark stock index plummeting by 10 per cent, its steepest one-day loss since 1987. Some Canadian oil producers saw their values erode by more than 50 per cent in an instant.

Italy in lockdown

All of Italy was placed in lockdown after a surge in COVID-19 infections and fatalities eliminated any hope that the virus outside China was on the verge of being contained. The national lockdown was imposed less than two days after Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte signed a decree that sealed off much of wealthy northern Italy, including Milan. The lockdown will severely restrict the movements and office life of 60 million Italian citizens.

Canadian cruise passengers

Hundreds of Canadians left stranded on a California cruise ship were set to return home as the federal Public Health Agency warned all Canadians to avoid cruise travel amid a growing global outbreak of COVID-19. Those who cleared medical screenings were expecting to be bused to an airport hangar in Oakland and then board a plane for Canadian Forces Base Trenton, an air base in Eastern Ontario, at 5:15 a.m. Tuesday to start a 14-day quarantine. Passengers who failed medical screenings would be treated in U.S. health-care facilities before they would be allowed to return home, Canadian officials said. The Grand Princess finally docked in Oakland on Monday afternoon after nearly five days spent sitting in the waters off the Northern California coast.

First Canadian death

B.C. associations involved in seniors’ care have set up a working group in response to the new coronavirus, hoping to streamline communications between government officials and operators of seniors’ facilities. The communications push follows the death of a man at a long-term care home in North Vancouver. B.C. Provincial Health Officer Bonnie Henry and Health Minister Adrian Dix announced the death, believed to be the first COVID-19 death in Canada, on Monday. The elderly man lived at a North Vancouver nursing home where two workers and at least one other resident are also infected, making the facility the site of Canada’s first coronavirus outbreak.

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White House response to crisis:

U.S. President Donald Trump said his administration will ask Congress to pass payroll tax relief and other quick measures as a public health and economic maelstrom brought on by the coronavirus drew closer to him personally. Trump told reporters that he is seeking “very substantial relief” to the payroll tax. Trump also said he was seeking help for hourly-wage workers to ensure they’re “not going to miss a paycheque” and “don’t get penalized for something that’s not their fault.”

Meanwhile:

A Chinese company says it has developed the country’s first facial recognition technology that can identify people when they are wearing a mask, as most are these days because of the coronavirus, and help in the fight against the disease.

Opinion:

  • John Ibbitson: “We face something we have never seen before: a public-health emergency coupled with an oil-price war converging at a time of unprecedented U.S. weakness. There is no handbook for this.”
  • Campbell Clark: “In market-shaking manoeuvres over international oil production, [Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman] played a dangerous game of chicken that sent world oil prices tumbling, clobbered stock prices, and spiked fears of a global recession.”

Read more:

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Coronavirus guide: The latest news on COVID-19 and the toll it’s taking around the world

Have you had to self-quarantine because of the coronavirus? We’d love to hear your story. Email: tips@globeandmail.com

This is the daily Morning Update newsletter. If you’re reading this on the web, or it was forwarded to you from someone else, you can sign up for Morning Update and more than 20 more Globe newsletters on our newsletter signup page.

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ALSO ON OUR RADAR

Quebec prepares to deliver big budget amid volatility, coronavirus outbreak

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Quebec Finance Minister Eric Girard revealed no details, but pointed out that five consecutive balanced budgets put the province in “an enviable position to increase spending on health, education and infrastructure.” Premier François Legault made it clearer the government will flood the province with taxpayer money. The Premier said Quebec has a $14-billion stabilization reserve in place for such crises and will dip into it if necessary to stimulate the economy.

Huawei should be publicly traded before supplying 5G gear, ex-envoy says

Guy Saint-Jacques told a parliamentary committee that “the idea would be to bring more transparency to its operations.” Under this proposal, Huawei would then face greater disclosure and reporting requirements in Canada.

Ontario elementary teachers to resume strikes if they don’t get a deal

The Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario (ETFO) said it would be back at the bargaining table on Wednesday with the government. Talks broke off at the end of January. ETFO, the country’s largest education union, with 83,000 members, said it would resume rotating strikes the week of March 23 if a deal is not reached with the government.

Ontario Court of Appeal upholds $40-million in damages in solitary confinement case

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A three-member appellate panel agreed that placement in solitary can cause physical and mental harm within a few days and endorsed $40-million in damages awarded in two class-action cases last year. The judgment adds to a growing stack of court decisions that have rendered as unconstitutional the practice of confining inmates to parking-space-sized cells for upward of 22 hours a day.

MORNING MARKETS

Global stocks steady after plunge on virus, oil crash: Global stock markets rebounded Tuesday from record-setting declines after President Donald Trump said he would ask Congress for a tax cut and other measures to ease the pain of the spreading coronavirus outbreak. In Europe, Britain’s FTSE 100 gained 3.72 per cent at 6:15 a.m. ET. France’s CAC 40 rose 3.95 per cent. Germany’s DAX gained 3.35 per cent. In Asia, Japan’s Nikkei finished up 0.85 per cent. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng closed up 1.41 per cent. New York futures were sharply higher. The Canadian dollar was trading at 73.15 US cents.

WHAT EVERYONE’S TALKING ABOUT

Why Bill Morneau needs a plan to fight a recession – and why he shouldn’t use it yet

Editorial: “Federal Finance Minister Bill Morneau, whose annual budget is expected in the next few weeks, does not have to implement an anti-recession plan tomorrow. But he has to have one in his hip pocket.”

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Are ultra low interest rates the new norm?

Howard Green: “The time to unleash the world’s most ambitious infrastructure projects would have been during the financial crisis. If ever there were a wasted moment, that was it. A dozen years later, we still have abnormally low interest rates and decayed infrastructure.” Howard Green is the author of three bestselling business books. His latest is Railroader: The Unfiltered Genius and Controversy of Four-Time CEO Hunter Harrison.

Strictly by the numbers, the coronavirus does not register as a dire global crisis

Richard Schabas: “When COVID-19 finds a sweet spot – a cruise ship, a South Korean church, an Italian hospital – it can spread efficiently. And the bug has a nasty bite. But these are the exceptions and not the rule. The vast majority of infected people spread the disease to precisely no one.” Richard Schabas is a retired physician. He was Ontario’s chief medical officer of health for 10 years, and was chief of staff at York Central Hospital during the SARS crisis in 2003.

TODAY’S EDITORIAL CARTOON

By Brian Gable

Brian Gable/The Globe and Mail

LIVING BETTER

It’s time to put a stop to toxic skin products that foster the idea that fairer skin is most attractive

Health Canada recently issued a safety advisory urging Canadians to check over-the-counter topical skin-lightening product labels for the required drug identification number or natural product number. Any such products with mercury, for example, or containing more than 2 per cent of ingredients such as hydroquinone pose serious health risks and are illegal to sell in Canada.

Last November, environmental organization the Sierra Club and the Beautywell Project, a non-profit advocacy group aimed at embracing identity and culture and ending skin-lightening practices, successfully petitioned Amazon to remove the slew of deceptively labelled, toxic skin-lightening creams in its online marketplace. But it’s a temporary victory when the beauty industry’s underlying message is still insidiously white.

I’m a new mother and a pediatrician – so, basically, I worry more

First Person: “It turns out that years of postsecondary education in science and a residency in pediatrics could not prepare me for motherhood or save me from the traps into which every desperate sleep-deprived new parent has fallen.”

MOMENT IN TIME

WORLD WAR I -- "At Neuve Chapelle". British guns at Neuve Chapelle - Battle of Neuve Chapelle, France, 10 - 13 March 1915. illustration by Frank Brangwyn. First World War British Army recruitment poster, 1914-1918. Credit: Library and Archives Canada

Library and Archives Canada

The plan was for the British 1st Army to punch through the German lines near the French village of Neuve Chapelle and push all the way to the city of Lille. The Canadian Expeditionary Force would see its first full-scale action in the First World War; positioned to the left of the British, the Canadians were tasked with creating a diversion to keep the enemy from reinforcing its main line. At 7:30 a.m., an artillery bombardment lasting just more than half an hour caught the Germans by surprise, allowing British and Indian troops to capture the village virtually unopposed by 9 a.m. But there they remained, unable to receive orders to advance because communication lines had been destroyed by the artillery attack. By the next day, the Germans had reinforced their line. The day after that, they counterattacked with 20 battalions, forcing the British to stake out a defensive position after taking about a kilometre of ground. The Allies suffered more than 12,000 casualties, including about a hundred Canadians, The main lesson they took away from the battle: The barrage was insufficient – they would need more and bigger guns, firing non-stop for days, to win this war. – Massimo Commanducci

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