Your Wednesday Briefing

Africa battles the virus

The pandemic is worsening in Africa as more-contagious coronavirus variants spread and hospitals in some places are pushed beyond their limits. Less than 1 percent of the continent’s people have been even partly vaccinated.

The situation is particularly bad in Kenya, where the Delta variant was found for the first time, in Kisumu County. There is now a 23 percent positivity rate in Kisumu, with the virus sickening mostly young people. Health officials say they fear a catastrophic wave like the one that ripped through India this spring.

Covid-related deaths in Africa climbed week over week by more than 20 percent, based on available data from almost 40 nations, the W.H.O. said. But experts warn that the true scale far exceeds reported figures. Testing and tracing remain a challenge for many countries, and many do not collect mortality data.

Chinese vaccines: Countries like Mongolia, Bahrain and the Seychelles put their faith in easily accessible Chinese-made vaccines. But instead of freedom from the coronavirus, all three nations are now battling a surge in infections, despite high rates of vaccination.

Here are the latest updates and maps of the pandemic.

In other developments:

India administered 8.6 million doses of Covid vaccines on Monday, setting a national record on the first day of a new policy that offers free vaccines for all adults.

The supercontagious Delta variant is now responsible for about one in every five Covid-19 cases in the U.S., heath officials said on Tuesday.

The semifinal and final matches of this summer’s European soccer championship will be played as scheduled at Wembley Stadium in London.

The U.S. has fully vaccinated 150 million people, but is likely to fall short of President Biden’s goal of getting 70 percent of adults at least partly vaccinated by July 4, the White House said.

How Brexit stole the charm of an idyllic British village

Five years after Britons voted to leave the E.U., the aftershocks are still being registered. But few places have felt its impact more than England’s southeast corner, close to Channel ports and the white cliffs of Dover, where a majority voted for Brexit.

The pretty village of Mersham, population about 1,000, is now home to the 24-hour Sevington Inland Border Facility, a post-Brexit border checkpoint. Every evening, hundreds of floodlights from where the trucks are parked illuminate the skyline. Villagers complain of dust, construction noise and trucks blasting their horns and getting stranded on tiny rural roads.

When Britain was in the E.U., the trucks that flowed ceaselessly to and from France did so with few checks. But Brexit has brought a blizzard of red tape, requiring the government to build the checkpoint. Though the problems for villagers are numerous, local officials think few have changed their pro-Brexit stance.

Quotable: “When you talk to somebody and you say where you live, they used to say, ‘Oh by the quaint church.’ Now they say, ‘By the lorry park,’” said one local resident.

The Vatican pushes back on gay rights bill

The Vatican has expressed deep reservations to the Italian government about a proposed gay rights bill, prompting cries of church interference from liberal politicians and gestures of gratitude from conservatives.

Those supporting the legislation say it offers L.G.B.T.Q. Italians overdue protections from violence and discrimination. But the Vatican believes that the bill infringes upon guaranteed religious liberties and that it might expose key church beliefs, such as ordaining only men and not recognizing same-sex marriage, to charges of criminal discrimination.

Analysis: Church historians said a letter about the bill from the Holy See’s foreign minister amounted to a unique escalation of Vatican attempts to influence the affairs of the Italian state. “It’s an unprecedented act,” said Alberto Melloni, a church historian in Rome.

In other news: The soccer body UEFA refused to allow Munich to illuminate its stadium in the rainbow colors of the Pride flag, which Munich had intended to do in protest of a recent Hungarian law that critics say targets the L.G.B.T.Q. community.


U.S. Politics

Senate Republicans blocked the most ambitious voting rights legislation in a generation, the Democrats’ bid to counter restrictive voting laws. Our congressional reporter explains how it became a failed strategy by Democrats. Above, the Senate minority leader, Mitch McConnell.

Voters in New York City went to the polls to pick the Democratic and Republican candidates for mayor. (A Democrat is almost certain to win in November.) Because of the ranked ballots, the winner may not be announced for weeks.

Executives, lobbyists and more than a dozen groups paid by Big Tech have tried to head off bipartisan support for six bills meant to undo the dominance of Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Google.

Other Big Stories

A shootout in Myanmar’s second-biggest city, Mandalay, was the first time the military and a group of armed civilians known as the People’s Defense Force clashed in a major urban area. “We have started and declared war,” said a spokesman for the newly formed militia.

Four Saudi operatives who participated in the 2018 killing of the journalist Jamal Khashoggi had received paramilitary training in the U.S. under a contract approved by the State Department.

What Else Is Happening

Spain pardoned a group of jailed Catalan separatists who had supported a 2017 vote for independence, an olive branch in a conflict that has divided the country.

A French-Moroccan consultant claims he has cracked unsolved ciphers attributed to the Zodiac killer in California and identified him, potentially ending a 50-year-old quest. The F.B.I. and the San Francisco Police Department declined to comment.

A Morning Read

For years, Britney Spears has urged changes to the conservatorship arrangement that controls her life, and her father’s role in leading it, according to confidential court records obtained by The Times. She is scheduled to address a Los Angeles court about it today.

Even as she earned millions from a successful Las Vegas residency, Spears said she was limited to a $2,000 weekly allowance, according to the records. Any mistakes resulted in “very harsh” consequences.


The Olympics, by the numbers

For more than a year, rising coronavirus case counts and struggling vaccination programs have made some hesitant about the Games. A month before the opening ceremony, our reporters examined — through the lens of some critical, and very large, numbers — why the Olympics are still going ahead.

$15.4 billion: The value of investment in Tokyo’s new national stadium that will go (mostly) down the drain if it stands empty on the night of the opening ceremony

37%: The current favorability rating for Japan’s prime minister, Yoshihide Suga, who may fear his political fortunes are now tied too closely to the Games to cancel them.

15,500: The number of athletes who will have to put their lives on hold for a year if the Olympics are postponed yet again.

$4 billion: The potential amount of television-rights income that the International Olympic Committee may have to refund if the Olympics are not held. (It accounts for 73 percent of the I.O.C.’s revenue.)

$549 million: The amount the I.O.C. distributes in so-called solidarity and other payments to national Olympic committees large and small, in some cases making up as much as a quarter of given countries’ national Olympic committee budgets.


What to Cook

Take grilled zucchini one step further with your favorite barbecue rub and a dab of spiced butter.

What to Watch

An energetic new documentary about the Sparks Brothers explains their appeal partly by emphasizing how it cannot be explained, writes our critic.

What to Read

“Filthy Animals,” the first story collection from Brandon Taylor, features unspoken desires bubbling up at inappropriate moments.

Fishy Developments

When an eel climbs a ramp to eat squid from a clamp — that’s a moray.

Now Time to Play

Here’s today’s Mini Crossword, and a clue: [::] [::] (four letters).

And here is today’s Spelling Bee.

You can find all our puzzles here.

That’s it for today’s briefing. Thanks for joining me. — Natasha

P.S. The Times is introducing gift articles, a way for subscribers to share 10 articles each month with people who don’t subscribe.

The latest episode of “The Daily” is about how the issue of policing has figured into the New York City mayoral race.

You can reach Natasha and the team at

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