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Good morning,

These are the top stories:

Experts are urging Canadian governments to take immediate steps on the coronavirus

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As the virus spreads to more countries, infectious disease experts are laying out specifics for how to prepare for what may soon be declared a pandemic. They say action should include:

  • Directives for walk-in clinics, policies on patient transfers and guidelines on the appropriate use of isolation rooms and masks.
  • Large-scale tests of people who visited clinics and hospitals to determine if and when the virus starts spreading in Canada.
  • Ensuring there are enough ventilators, an especially important treatment tool for people over the age of 65, who appear to experience the worst effects.

Federal Health Minister Patty Hajdu says Canadians should prepare by ensuring they have an adequate supply of food and any prescription medications, and be vigilant about hand washing and staying at home when sick.

Experts also say people should remember that most cases of the virus are mild.

A look around the world:

  • A group of Canadians and family members trapped in Wuhan is urging Ottawa to charter another plane.
  • Several European countries, including Switzerland and Austria, have reported their first cases, all linked to Italy.
  • Saudi Arabia halted travel to Islam’s holiest sites amid virus fears.
  • The number of new cases outside China has started to exceed the number of new cases inside China.
  • In the U.S., which has 60 cases, Vice-President Mike Pence has been tasked with overseeing the country’s response.

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.

Canada refused to discuss Iran’s proposal to resume some diplomatic ties

A federal government source tells The Globe that Foreign Affairs Minister François-Philippe Champagne told his Iranian counterpart that relations must focus on the issue of the Flight 752 disaster.

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Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif had proposed taking the step of opening “interests sections” in embassies of third countries when he met with Champagne on Jan. 17, just nine days after Iranian forces shot down a Ukrainian plane, killing 55 Canadian citizens and 30 permanent residents.

Canada’s formal relations with Iran were put on ice by the Harper government, with the Tehran embassy shuttered in 2012. Iran then closed its embassy in Ottawa.

Planned talks between B.C., Ottawa and Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs are back on

A meeting between the Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs, the federal and B.C. governments is set to take place Thursday after it was abruptly cancelled Wednesday, one of the leaders of the First Nation said.

Chief Na’Moks, who also goes by John Ridsdale, said the meeting is scheduled in the afternoon and will continue Friday. The meeting was initially scrapped after the chiefs refused to ask other First Nations to stop rail blockades and demonstrations of support.

“We would not ask other nations allies to ‘step down’ so both Governments have walked away!” Risdale said in a text.

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Despite injunctions and arrests, there remain no sign that protests will end any time soon. Transport Minister Marc Garneau said it will take several weeks for rail service to return to normal even if blockades were to end immediately.

Key demands from the hereditary chiefs in the spat over the Coastal GasLink pipeline have included closing an RCMP office and the end of RCMP patrols. Progress has been made on those fronts, Ridsdale said.

Ontario is moving forward with biosimilars despite pressure from the maker of Remicade

The province decided to push ahead with a policy to switch some patients to cheaper biosimilar medications even as Remicade maker Janssen met with government officials in a bid to retain public funding.

Remicade, an intravenous treatment for arthritis and bowel disease, was the top-selling medication by revenue in Canada in 2018. But a steady stream of provinces are moving toward biosimilars, near-copies that are widely considered just as effective.

A copy of Janssen’s confidential proposal, obtained by The Globe, showed the company presented an offer with a steep discount on the drug, which costs about $30,000 a year at full price.

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Janssen also revealed it had been providing 1,872 Ontario patients with free Remicade, and that the free coverage would stop if the province proceeded with its plan.

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

ALSO ON OUR RADAR

Concerns raised about MAID changes: New federal legislation designed to make it easier for those suffering to receive an assisted death could actually make it harder to get one in some cases, experts say. They argue that the proposed changes could create a narrower definition of what is considered a reasonably foreseeable death.

Retrial for ex-reservist who shot Indigenous man: Peter Khill has been ordered to face a new trial for second-degree murder in the 2016 shooting death of Jonathan Styres. Khill was acquitted in 2018 after arguing he was acting in self defence when he shot Styres, who had been breaking into his pickup truck.

MORNING MARKETS

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Virus-hit stocks shed $3-trillion; safe havens thrive: Global stocks resumed their plunge, wiping out more than US$3-trillion in value this week alone, and U.S. Treasuries yields hit record lows on Thursday as the coronavirus spread faster outside China and investors fled to safe havens. In Europe, Britain’s FTSE 100 was down 1.97 per cent just after 6 a.m. ET. Germany’s DAX fell 2.34 per cent and France’s CAC 40 was off 2.17 per cent. In Asia, Tokyo’s Nikkei dropped 2.13 per cent while Hong Kong’s Hang Seng rose 0.31 per cent. New York futures were lower. The Canadian dollar was trading around 75 US cents.

WHAT EVERYONE’S TALKING ABOUT

The rumours of reconciliation’s death are greatly exaggerated

Globe editorial: “The Liberals’ politicization of the word means that every setback, error and disagreement is going to be heralded as the death knell of reconciliation. Indigenous and non-Indigenous Canadians should look at the bigger picture.”

TODAY’S EDITORIAL CARTOON

(Brian Gable/The Globe and Mail)

Brian Gable/The Globe and Mail

LIVING BETTER

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How to stretch your dollars to get the vacation you deserve

Set an alert: Google Flights, Hopper and Skyscanner will let you know if it’s a good time to book that flight you’ve been eyeing.

Check on-the-ground costs: The site expatistan.com offers a glimpse at the prices of everything from snacks to gas to help you budget your trip.

For more savings tips, go here. And for more travel inspiration and advice, sign up for The Globe’s new weekly Sightseer newsletter, launching next week.

MOMENT IN TIME

First appearance of Pokemon

(David M. Warren/Philadelphia Inquirer via Newscom)

DAVID M. WARREN/PHILADELPHIA INQUIRER via Newscom

Feb. 27, 1996: It was a modest beginning for an empire. The first Pokemon games, Pokemon Red and Pokemon Green, released in Japan 24 years ago today. Players, called trainers, could collect Pokemon – a portmanteau of the Japanese words for “pocket” and “monster”– and battle other trainers with the often adorable monsters.The game was a hit, and continues to be with every spinoff, including trading cards, an anime television series, books, a theme park and a live-action film starring Ryan Reynolds alongside Pikachu, the popular tiny yellow creature from the Pokemon universe. Pokemon is the world’s highest-grossing franchise, well ahead of Star Wars or Harry Potter, with an estimated US$92-billion in total revenue. It is the second bestselling video game franchise, behind Super Mario. Like most successful brands, Pokemon never stopped evolving. Pokemon Go, the augmented reality game released in the summer of 2016, had hordes of people wandering the streets, phones held up to “catch” Pokemon characters in their game app. The game has been downloaded more than 800 million times. Forbes magazine called it “the world’s most important game.” Not bad for a franchise that started off in humble black and white on the Nintendo Game Boy. – Dave McGinn

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