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Hello,

We’re not out of the woods yet.

That was the message from federal public-health officials today, who provided new modelling that suggests fast-spreading variants could fuel a third wave of the pandemic by the end of March.

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If public-health measures such as lockdowns are ended, the modelling suggested, the number of daily cases could climb to 20,000 by mid-March, from a current low of just under 3,000 a day.

“With more contagious variants spreading, further lifting of the public health measures will cause the epidemic to resurge rapidly and strongly,” Chief Public Health Officer Theresa Tam told reporters this morning.

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

The federal government announced today it was extending many of its pandemic-related benefit programs, including an extension to Employment Insurance.

A meeting of G7 countries, including Canada, is leading to more funding for the international program that primarily exists to help lower income countries obtain COVID-19 vaccines. However, the group did not commit to expediting that access.

Early data from Quebec suggests that wide distribution of the first shots of COVID-19 vaccines – at the expense of delaying a second shot – may have provided strong results.

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In Ontario, stay-at-home orders are being extended in Toronto, Peel and North Bay.

The Conservative Party’s national council rejected an appeal by MP Derek Sloan to rejoin the party in the next election.

The Assembly of First Nations has commissioned a preliminary probe into allegations against a regional chief, who says she is being targeted because of her own concerns with the organization.

And Prince Harry and Meghan Markle are officially no longer working members of the Royal Family. The couple will lose the remaining royal patronages and military honours they had. “While all are saddened by their decision,” said a statement from Buckingham Palace, “The Duke and Duchess remain much loved members of the family.”

Robyn Urback (The Globe and Mail) on Ontario Premier Doug Ford’s resistance to paid sick days: “Mr. Ford knows the [federal benefit] isn’t working, and he also knows that imploring Ottawa to beef up its sickness benefit won’t rescue him from pressure to act on an issue that is within his jurisdiction anyway. Indeed, one of the most prudent steps Ontario could take as it tries to coast its way to widespread vaccination is to ensure that workers who might be sick are paid to stay home, and surely Mr. Ford recognizes the costs of any abuse of the system would be far less than the costs of shutting down the economy if COVID-19 case numbers again explode. But even while the health and economic evidence might be persuasive, the political impetus – for this Premier, in particular – is not.”

Eric Reguly (The Globe and Mail) on why all countries need vaccines, not just rich ones: “Delaying vaccination allows the virus to mutate into more contagious and lethal variants. That’s why South Africa and a few other countries are in a panic. The Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine bought by South Africa has proven largely ineffective against mild and moderate South African variants, and the country is scrambling to find replacements.”

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John Ibbitson (The Globe and Mail) on boosting Canadian immigration during the pandemic: “I would argue that Ottawa and the provinces should also look for qualified workers from the pool of asylum claimants and undocumented workers as well, subject to the appropriate background checks. Right now we need workers more than we need to enforce bureaucratic rules.”

Mira Sucharov and Bernie Farber (The Globe and Mail) on the ongoing legal saga against Hassan Diab: “Those people might suggest that Mr. Trudeau should grant France’s request for an extradition if and when the time comes. But here’s the thing. Democracies must refuse an extradition request if there are serious concerns about the likelihood of a fair trial. Enough evidence in Mr. Diab’s ordeal – particularly evidence that came to light after the 2014 extradition – persuades us that he very well may not receive a fair trial in France.”

Shachi Kurl (Ottawa Citizen) on choosing the next governor-general: “Canadians are not keen to see Justin Trudeau continue as the sole decision-maker when it comes to this hire. Under fire for having ignored warning signs that Payette was an unsuitable candidate, he is not trusted by people to pick the next one alone. Almost unanimously, the preference is to see the choice made by a committee of Parliament.”

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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