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While the new variant of the COVID-19 virus that is rapidly spreading in Britain has not been reported in Canada, Health Canada says the level of genetic surveillance conducted across the country is not sufficient to say with confidence that it has not arrived.

Dozens of countries, including Canada, have banned travel from Britain in the wake of news of the variant.

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The details of the new variant that have emerged so far are worrying enough to have prompted Canadian public-health officials and molecular biologists involved in tracking changes in the virus to rapidly increase their vigilance.

“There’s always a possibility that the variant has travelled and we are focussing considerable effort to be able to identify it, should it arise here in Canada,” said Guillaume Poliquin, acting scientific director-general of the National Microbiology Laboratory.

Read more:

COVID-19 variant causes international concern as Britain finds itself isolated

André Picard: Virus mutations matter. Behaviour matters more

A nearly deserted Regent Street in central London on Monday, Dec. 21, 2020. Battling a new coronavirus variant even as they steel themselves for the looming split with the E.U., Britons are feeling profoundly isolated. (Andrew Testa/The New York Times)

ANDREW TESTA/The New York Times News Service

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Ontario-wide shutdown begins Dec. 26, closes non-essential businesses and schools

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As Ontario gets ready to lock down the province on Boxing Day to slow the spread of the pandemic, hospitals are warning that is too long to wait, while municipalities with low COVID-19 case counts say it is unfair to include them in the new restrictions.

Anthony Dale, the head of the Ontario Hospital Association, which had been calling for stricter measures across much of the province, said he was “surprised and disappointed” that the restrictions won’t take effect for five days.

But Premier Doug Ford said businesses need more time to prepare. “We can’t do it overnight,” Ford said. “We need to give them an opportunity to get this done.... The quicker we get through this, the quicker businesses can open up, the quicker we can get life back to normal.”

Read more:

André Picard: What part of ‘now’ and ‘action’ does Doug Ford not understand?

Editorial: Lockdown isn’t the Christmas present Ontario wanted. But it’s the present Ontario needs

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Quebec’s lack of modern-day hockey greats leads to an existential crisis

Béliveau. Lafleur. Roy. Lemieux.

The names need little explanation for Canadian hockey fans. They are just a few of the immortal Québécois players who graced the game in the 20th century with butterfly goaltending and scalding slap shots.

But something has changed in the home of Maurice Richard. The cadre of Quebec players in the NHL has sharply declined over the past 20 years. The newspaper Le Devoir estimated that the number who regularly lace up for an NHL team has been roughly cut in half since the turn of the millennium.

Meanwhile, in a subtler change also lamented by the province’s press corps, the Quebec players who do make it to the grand circuit seem less illustrious than their forebears. What accounts for the apparent decline of Quebec hockey?

Got a news tip that you’d like us to look into? E-mail us at tips@globeandmail.com Need to share documents securely? Reach out via SecureDrop

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ALSO ON OUR RADAR

Earthlings treated to rare alignment of Jupiter and Saturn: The evening sky over the Northern Hemisphere treated stargazers to a once-in-a-lifetime illusion yesterday as the solar system’s two biggest planets appeared to meet in a celestial alignment that astronomers call the “Great Conjunction.”

Photos: Rare spectacle: Jupiter and Saturn’s celestial alignment from around the world

Putin foe Navalny releases call with Kremlin agent who admits role in poison plot: In a remarkable turn of events, Russian opposition leader Alexey Navalny claimed that he duped one of his would-be assassins into confessing how agents tried to poison him with Novichok by applying it to his underwear.

Michelle Latimer resigns from CBC’s Trickster after addressing questions of Indigenous ancestry: Less than a week after releasing a statement addressing questions surrounding her Indigenous ancestry, Canadian filmmaker Michelle Latimer has announced she is leaving CBC’s Trickster, the acclaimed series she co-created and directed.

Oxford, Canadian Tire plan Toronto office and residential complex as landlords bet on market rebound: Oxford Properties and the real estate arm of Canadian Tire have announced plans for five office and apartment skyscrapers in midtown Toronto despite the pandemic driving workers from office towers and slowing demand for downtown condos.

How changing American demand helped breathe new life into GM’s Oshawa plant: Americans are buying more pickup trucks in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, and that is spurring the unlikely rebirth of General Motors vehicle production in Oshawa, Ont., which is being refitted to make Chevrolet Silverados and GMC Sierras.

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Metro pays out near-maximum bonuses to executives after topping profit targets: Metro Inc. paid out near-maximum bonuses to its top executives this year even as it rolled back temporary pay boosts to front-line workers during the hectic early months of the COVID-19 crisis.


MORNING MARKETS

European stocks steady after previous session’s selloff: European stocks steadied on Tuesday, after heavy losses a day earlier sparked by fears over a new variant of COVID-19, as Washington approved a long-awaited pandemic relief package. Just before 6 a.m. ET, Britain’s FTSE 100 was up 0.30 per cent. Germany’s DAX and France’s CAC 40 rose 1.04 per cent and 0.95 per cent, respectively. In Asia, Japan’s Nikkei fell 1.04 per cent. Hong Kong’s Hang Seng lost 0.71 per cent. New York futures were mixed. The Canadian dollar was trading at 77.66 US cents.


WHAT EVERYONE’S TALKING ABOUT

Cathal Kelly: “The league also does great parallel work charting the decline and occasional implosion of former favourites. This is the NBA’s real talent – a conveyor belt of talent that runs all the way from draft night to humiliation via media.”

Amin Mawani: “News commentators have been speculating whether the CRA would consider forgiving such repayments if the misinterpretation of CERB eligibility rules were made in good faith. However, overlooking such repayments would be tantamount to penalizing those who took the trouble to read and understand the CERB rules correctly.”


TODAY’S EDITORIAL CARTOON

Brian Gable

Brian Gable/The Globe and Mail


LIVING BETTER

Incoming: Holiday treats for all tastes on TV

Even if you won’t be gathered in groups this holiday season, just watch TV and savour the good, the fun and the flaky, in our commitment to consolation and good cheer. In the next few days you will find a fine list of content in this section to binge-watch over the holidays. Here, a round-up of new, new-ish and favourites to take you through.

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MOMENT IN TIME: DEC. 22, 1989

West German Chancellor Helmut Kohl (4th R), East German Prime Minister Hans Modrow and West Berlin Mayor Walter Momper wave to the crowd December 22, 1989 during the official opening of the Brandenburg Gate and the Berlin Wall.

STRINGER/AFP via Getty Images

Brandenburg Gate reopens

As the rain poured down and people in the crowd shouted “Deutschland,” West German chancellor Helmut Kohl and East German prime minister Hans Modrow walked together through the newly reopened Brandenburg Gate. Berlin’s famous 18th-century monument, which had seen Napoleon, Hitler and Soviet tanks pass through it, had been closed since the Berlin Wall went up in 1961. The German leaders walked through the gate’s central arch, historically reserved for royalty, and each let loose a dove to symbolize peace between the two fragmented halves of their country. The Berlin Wall had been breached on Nov. 9, 1989, with East Germans beginning to pour into the walled enclave of West Berlin. Six weeks later, it was time for the Brandenburger Tor, where Berliners traditionally gather for celebrations, to reopen. In the crowd, signs said, “Berlin is one city. Germany is one nation.” Kohl, the first West German leader to be welcomed into East Germany, said: “I, like many others, have often stood at the Brandenburg Gate, and we used to discuss whether we would live to see the day when we could walk through. This is one of the happiest hours of my life.” Elizabeth Renzetti

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