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Hello,

Across the world, countries are seeing a sudden drop in COVID-19 cases – and no one can be totally sure why.

As Globe health reporter Kelly Grant explains in a story today, there are many possible reasons, such as increasing immunity from those who have been vaccinated or already caught the virus, or a sign that public-health measures like lockdowns are working.

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The tension for political leaders and policy-makers is whether to use this as a reason to relax measures that have contained the virus – at the cost, perhaps, of many small businesses and their employees, unless governments step up to support them.

Newfoundland and Labrador, which had successfully contained the virus for months until a variant-fuelled resurgence, offers one cautionary tale of relaxing your guard too soon. And it may explain why many health authorities in the Greater Toronto Area are pushing back on Ontario’s plans to reopen.

“I think many people have been lulled into a false sense of security with the declining numbers,” Lawrence Loh, Medical Officer of Health for Peel, told The Globe.

This is the daily Politics Briefing newsletter, written by Chris Hannay. It is available exclusively to our digital subscribers. If you’re reading this on the web, subscribers can sign up for the Politics newsletter and more than 20 others on our newsletter signup page. Have any feedback? Let us know what you think.

TODAY’S HEADLINES

Long-time Liberal MP Wayne Easter, who chairs the House of Commons finance committee, says the Liberal government needs to stop funding the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, stop funding research with Huawei, and start to be more careful about how it engages with China.

As the Liberal government prepares its first budget in two years, the House of Commons finance committee has some recommendations: 145 of ‘em, that include an array of new health-care spending such as more money for long-term care and universal pharmacare.

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The federal government has opened the gates to citizenship for many more people than normal through the Express Entry program in a bid to make up for pandemic shortfalls in immigration.

Gun-control advocates say they are disappointed that a new Liberal gun buyback program is voluntary, not mandatory.

How Quebec Premier François Legault has maintained huge personal popularity, despite the province having one of the highest COVID-19 death tolls in Canada.

And Rush Limbaugh, a radio host whose controversial and outspoken views made him a conservative media icon and fed into the deep polarization of U.S. politics, has died at the age of 70.

Rita Trichur (The Globe and Mail) on why Canada needs to do more on financial crime: “If Canada wants to be taken seriously by the Biden administration and other key allies, it can’t appear soft on financial crime. The U.S. State Department has already made it clear that it considers Canada a major money-laundering jurisdiction.”

Rashid Husain Syed (The Globe and Mail) on how U.S.-Saudi relations are changing: “The inauguration of President Joe Biden has changed the mood in Washington and in Riyadh. During a primary debate, the then-candidate underlined that he would make long-time ally Saudi Arabia ‘the pariah that they are,’ and now that Mr. Biden is in office, the pressure appears to be beginning to yield results.”

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Andrew Coyne (The Globe and Mail) on the government’s assisted-dying bill: “Reasonable people can differ on these questions, of course. But what we ought to be able to agree on is that it should not be up to the Senate to decide.”

Ginny Roth (National Post) on social conservatives and the Conservative Party: “Despite many Canadians passionately describing their personal political convictions as centering around the role of the family and the community, social conservatives in Canada are understood to be single-issue outsiders, intent on disrupting, rather than building — opposing rather than governing. Unfortunately, the lead up to the Conservative party’s upcoming convention demonstrates exactly why a vocal few party members are giving social conservatives a bad name.”

Don Martin (CTV) on the prospects of a spring election: “Look, there are a hundred reasons why Justin Trudeau does not deserve easy or safe re-election. That list includes early pandemic detection and control failures, runaway deficits, his ethical lapses, broken or delayed promises, his government’s secrecy, those control freaks running his caucus and a sense he’s now well past his best-before date. But a quick, trouble-free vaccination blitz would almost guarantee that voters roll out the red carpet to another Liberal government.”

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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