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Good morning,

These are the top stories:

Ottawa shuts down Service Canada centres as employees refuse to work

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Today, the federal government is shutting the doors to all of its 317 Service Canada Centres, after employees en masse refused to work.

It bent to pressure last night from the Canadian Employment and Immigration Union, which represents 17,000 Service Canada employees, including 3,360 who staff the centres.

The centres were crowded and efforts to control the traffic resulted in long lines outside and sometimes irate visitors. Recently, so many missed work that 187 centres closed on Thursday – almost 60 per cent of the network.

More Canadian headlines:

A man walks past a COVID-19 alert sign in Vancouver's downtown eastside Thursday, March 26, 2020.

JONATHAN HAYWARD/The Canadian Press

Have you had to self-quarantine because of the coronavirus? We want to hear your story. E-mail: 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.

Canada’s big banks field more than 200,000 mortgage deferral requests

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More than 213,000 requests for mortgage deferrals have been completed or are still being processed by the country’s six largest banks.

Last week, the banks announced a program that allows customers facing financial hardship as a result of COVID-19 to defer payments for up to six months.

More business headlines:

Barb Richard is photographed on the balcony of her Toronto condo on Mar 26 2020. While she practises social distancing she is struggling to have groceries delivered to door.

Fred Lum/the Globe and Mail

M*A*S*H, Italian-style: Canadians are part of a medical team learning to fight coronavirus in the field

As desperation set in among Cremona hospital workers in northern Italy, an ancient DC-8 jet landed nearby, at Verona airport, on March 17 and discharged a team of medics that included eight Canadian nurses and 20 tonnes of equipment. Other than saving lives, the medics’ goal is to learn as much about the new virus as they can on the assumption that the Italian tragedy could be repeated back home.

Read more from world news:

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Medical staff at the Samaritan's Purse Emergency Field Hospital in Cremona, Italy, care for coronavirus patients in the Intensive Care Unit.

Kim E Rowland/Samaritan's Purse

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

Former Saskatchewan deputy energy minister appointed as head of Alberta Energy Regulator: Laurie Pushor will take the helm of the Alberta Energy Regulator on April 15 after a tumultuous year for one of the province’s most important regulatory agencies.

Cirque mulls bankruptcy among options if the show can’t go on, source says: Cirque laid off 4,679 people last week, about 95 per cent of its work force, including 1,373 staff at its head office.

The 1994 Montreal Expos strike first in series against the Expos of ’81: In place of on-field baseball action postponed by the COVID-19 pandemic, The Globe and Mail brings you a computer-simulated tournament involving four of the greatest Canadian teams in history, using the statistics-based software of the sports-game company Strat-O-Matic.

MORNING MARKETS

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European stocks fell this morning, halting their biggest ever three-day rally in a sign investors were focusing once more on the spread of the coronavirus pandemic despite hopes for further stimulus measures to combat its economic impact.

The pan-European STOXX 600 index was down almost 2 per cent in early deals.

“Rallies don’t last forever, and clearly investors are happy to call time on this one as we head into another uncertain weekend,” said Craig Erlam, analyst at OANDA.

WHAT EVERYONE’S TALKING ABOUT

Sick and alone: a pandemic that tears us away from our loved ones in hospital

Lauralee Morris: “Epidemics shake the foundations of society. They cleave families and communities and leave the sick and vulnerable to fend for themselves. They uncover the ugly disparities between the haves and have-nots of this world.” Morris is a physician who lives in Brampton, Ont.

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The uncertainty around COVID-19 is almost as bad as the disease. But we may soon find relief

Dan Gardner: “Sooner or later, the uncertain future will become the certain present. Things may turn out better than we fear. Or they may be worse.” Gardner is the author of the books Risk: The Science and Politics of Fear and Future Babble.

Everyone should remain in their homes – including those who can’t afford to pay rent

Benjamin Ries: “Our individual positions in the housing market are not enough to protect any of us from the destruction of our shared health infrastructure and our economy.” Ries is the supervising lawyer for housing law at Downtown Legal Services, the community legal clinic at the University of Toronto Faculty of Law.

TODAY’S EDITORIAL CARTOON

Brian Gable

Brian Gable/The Globe and Mail

LIVING BETTER

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Can’t stop touching your face? Here’s how to break a bad habit

As the new coronavirus upends daily life, people are now faced with having to quit certain habits, such as touching their faces, and avoid developing new ones while they’re stuck at home. Marina Milyavskaya, associate professor of psychology at Carleton University, says that disruptions are a good time to change habits. She shares on tips on how to do it.

MOMENT IN TIME

Ottawa, Apr 20, 1998. A man walks through a group of crosses representing Hepatitis C victims on the front lawn of Parliament Hill. (CP PHOTO, stf-Tom Hanson)

Tom Hanson/The Canadian Press

Government announces compensation for some victims of hep C-tainted blood

March 27, 1998: There were shouts of “shame, shame” on this day in 1998 after Health Minister Allan Rock announced details of a compensation package for thousands of people who had contracted hepatitis C through contaminated blood and blood products. The federal and provincial governments together were offering $1.1-billion for those infected between 1986 and 1990. Rock explained that a test for hepatitis C was available during this period, but Canadian authorities had decided not to use it because it was too expensive. The hecklers were incensed because people who had contracted the disease before 1986 or after 1990 were left out of the deal. These “forgotten victims” went on to lobby for years, until the federal government announced in 2006 that it would pay them $1-billion in compensation. In his landmark report on the tainted-blood scandal in 1997, Justice Horace Krever had insisted that all the victims should be compensated equally, regardless of when they were infected. The report also noted the danger of failing to act expeditiously in the face of a serious threat. Health officials “refrained from taking essential preventive measures until causation had been proved with scientific certainty. The result was a national public health disaster.” - Danielle Adams

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