Your Thursday Briefing: Variant Déjà Vu in India

We’re covering Omicron in India and unrest sweeping Kazakhstan.

A trade center in Chennai has been turned into a Covid hospital to prepare for a possible surge. Credit…Idrees Mohammed/EPA, via Shutterstock

Omicron brings a sense of déjà vu to India

Just a few months ago, as government leaders vastly underestimated the dangers and publicly flouted official advice, the Delta variant ravaged India. Now, with the rise of Omicron, the mixed signals from the government and rapid spread through cities are fueling a sense of déjà vu.

As the Omicron wave began last month, Prime Minister Narendra Modi urged the nation to be vigilant. Arvind Kejriwal, the chief minister of the Delhi region, introduced night curfews, shut down movie theaters and slashed capacity in restaurants and public transport.

But then both men hit the campaign trail, appearing unmasked in rallies with thousands of people. Large election rallies are being held across several states that are going to the polls in the coming months.

Numbers: Mumbai reported more than 15,000 new infections on Wednesday, its highest of the pandemic. In New Delhi, the daily number nearly doubled overnight.

Added concern: The worries are compounded by some research showing that the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine, which has been used in about 90 percent of India’s vaccinations, does not protect against Omicron, though it appears to help reduce the severity of the illness.

Here are the latest updates and maps of the pandemic.

In other developments:

  • President Emmanuel Macron drew criticism for bluntly saying that he wanted to “piss off the unvaccinated.” His comments came less than four months before the French presidential election.

  • Hong Kong suspended flights from eight countries, including the U.S., fearing another surge.

  • Novak Djokovic’s arrival in Australia on Wednesday was uncertain visa dispute and questions about his medical exemption to play in the Open.

  • The W.H.O. said a new variant detected in France was not of concern, for now.

  • The Grammy Awards were postponed amid surging cases.

A burning police car at a protest in Almaty, Kazakhstan, on Wednesday.Credit…Pavel Mikheyev/Reuters

Kazakh protesters storm government offices

Thousands of people across Kazakhstan are taking to the streets over a surge in the cost of fuel. The demonstrations are the biggest wave of protests to sweep the oil-rich country in decades.

Protesters on Wednesday stormed government buildings in Almaty, Kazakhstan’s biggest city, setting ablaze the former presidential residence and the offices of the governing Nur Otan party. Police said the protesters damaged 400 businesses, and that 200 people had been detained. According to local media, the police opened fire in Atyrau, killing at least one person.

Anger has swelled despite concessions from the ruling party: The cabinet and prime minister were dismissed. As protests continued, the president promised to “act with maximum toughness.” Authorities shut off the internet and blocked social media and chat apps.

Background: Protests began Sunday after the government lifted price caps for liquefied petroleum gas and the cost of fuel doubled. In the days since, demonstrators have demanded the ouster of the authoritarian political forces that have ruled the country since Kazakhstan became independent in 1991.

Russia is watching: Kazakhstan is at the heart of what President Vladimir Putin of Russia sees as the Kremlin’s sphere of influence. Pro-Kremlin media portrayed the events as a plot against Russia.

Here’s what’s behind Kazakhstan’s biggest crisis in decades.

Credit…Jialun Deng

Chinese tech loses jobs and hope

Beijing’s crackdown on the tech sector is killing entrepreneurial drive and quashing jobs that attracted college graduates, our columnist Li Yuan writes.

Companies like iQiyi, a video platform that aspired to be China’s Netflix, are laying off young, well-educated workers. Some have even been forced to shut down. Regulators say they are trying to clean up the companies’ practices, but many say regulatory actions have gone too far. Major corporations have been hit with antitrust fines, and media and entertainment platforms are pulling popular content and influencers, wary of repeated government warnings that the content is not ideologically appropriate.

Details: In the third quarter of last year, China’s biggest internet company, Tencent, posted its slowest revenue growth since its public listing in 2004. The e-commerce giant Alibaba’s profitability declined by 38 percent from a year earlier. Didi, once the most valuable start-up in the country, reported an operating loss of $6.3 billion for the first nine months of 2021.


Around the World

Authorities said more than 700 people have been arrested for taking part in the attack at the Capitol last year.Credit…Jason Andrew for The New York Times
  • President Biden will speak at the Capitol on Thursday for the anniversary of the Jan. 6 attack on the building. More than 700 people have been arrested since the assault by a pro-Trump mob. Look back on our coverage here.

  • Canada reached a $31.5 billion settlement to repair its Indigenous child welfare system and compensate families harmed by it.

  • Two of the three parties in Germany’s new governing coalition support legalizing marijuana.

  • The number of children 14 and younger killed by gunfire in the U.S. rose by roughly 50 percent from the end of 2019 to the end of 2020, fueled in part by pandemic gun buying.

  • Quentin Tarantino plans to sell “Pulp Fiction” NFTs, defying a Miramax lawsuit.

Asia Pacific News

A broadcast on Wednesday of a North Korean missile test, in Seoul.Credit…Jung Yeon-Je/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images
  • North Korea launched a ballistic missile off its east coast on Wednesday, the South Korean military said.

  • Australia and Japan will sign a treaty on Thursday to increase defense and security cooperation. The move is likely to anger China, The Associated Press reports.

  • After struggling with supply chain problems during the pandemic, some corporate giants are bringing manufacturing back to the U.S., trying to regain some of the output ceded to China and other countries.

A Morning Read

The statues run along the canal at Prato della Valle square in Padua, Italy.Credit…Raquel Maria Carbonell Pagola/LightRocket, via Getty Images

In Padua, Italy, two city councilors caused a stir with a proposal to include a female philosopher in a monument whose 78 sculptures are all men. They say that placing a statue of Cornaro Piscopia, the first woman in the world to graduate with a university degree, obtained in 1678, “would be a sign for the future.”


Anthony Tommasini, right, with his husband seeing “Rigoletto,” his final review as chief classical music critic.Credit…Andrew M. Manshel

Mozart and life

As he retires after 21 years as The Times’s chief classical music critic, Anthony Tommasini reflects on his first article for The Times: a deeply personal essay about a friend.

I was a freelance classical music critic for The Boston Globe. A close friend from my class at Yale, Bob Walden, was declining fast from AIDS, and I went to visit him in New York. I’d brought some chicken salad for lunch, though Bob, having shriveled to about 100 pounds, hardly ate. He died on Jan. 1, 1988, at 39.

Despite my sadness, maybe because of it, I needed to write about Bob. During this early, brutal period of AIDS, many were writing about the deaths of their gay friends. But music, specifically Mozart, would be a unifying thread of my article. Bob liked classical music, but used to think that Mozart was above him, which baffled me.

As we ate lunch on that fall day in 1987, a tape started playing Mozart’s consoling choral motet “Ave verum corpus.” As if chastising his own musical cluelessness, he said, “It’s so damn simple.”

That’s what I wrote about: Bob’s epiphany about Mozart seemed linked to insights he was making about life, as he approached death.

From then on, I kept writing profiles and interviews after joining The Times. And I learned that you can tell people’s stories by describing the music they create.


What to Cook

Credit…Linda Xiao for The New York Times

Roasted butternut squash bread salad gets its moisture from an earthy tahini dressing.

What to Read

Gina Apostol’s novel “Bibliolepsy” revisits the final years of the Marcos dictatorship in the Philippines.


It’s possible to exercise too much. Here’s how to look for the signs of overexertion.

Now Time to Play

Here’s today’s Mini Crossword, and a clue: Repeat verbatim (five letters).

And here is today’s Spelling Bee.

You can find all our puzzles here.

That’s it for today’s briefing. See you next time. — Melina

P.S. Readers ages 11 to 19 are invited to submit entries to our Learning Network’s profile writing contest.

The latest episode of “The Daily” is about the riot at the U.S. Capitol.

You can reach Melina and the team at [email protected].

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