Your Tuesday Briefing

We’re covering Sydney’s reopening day and an exodus from Hong Kong’s schools.

Patrons at a barber shop received haircuts on Monday after Sydney lifted a coronavirus lockdown that had lasted over 100 days.Credit…Rick Rycroft/Associated Press

Sydney roars back to life

Sydney stepped out of lockdown Monday after more than 100 days: “Freedom Day,” with rules.

Across the state of New South Wales, home to Sydney, as many as 10 vaccinated people could gather at home, with the number rising to 100 people for weddings and 500 for outdoor events. Bars and restaurants also opened, with masks required indoors when people were not eating and drinking. Some salons opened at 12:01 a.m.

With more than 70 percent of the state’s adult population fully vaccinated, the first few sips of normalcy were more than enough to celebrate.

“People can call it whatever day they want to call it,” said Dominic Perrottet, the state premier, who accidentally sprayed himself with beer as he tapped a keg to commemorate the occasion. “I just think it’s a great day for the people of our state based on the efforts and sacrifices that everyone has made.”

Nationwide, progress remains uneven. Melbourne is still locked down, with cases hovering around 1,500 a day. In Western Australia, case counts are low but only about 50 percent of people are fully vaccinated.

Details: When its outbreak started in June, Australia lacked both urgency and vaccines. New cases exploded to 1,500 a day in New South Wales. Now, after months of public compliance, case numbers there have fallen to about 500 daily. Many epidemiologists believe the country is on track to fully vaccinate 90 percent of its population, if not more.

Here are the latest updates and maps of the pandemic.

In other developments:

  • Merck is seeking F.D.A. approval for its antiviral pill to treat Covid.

  • U.S. drug regulators will meet this week to discuss booster shots of the Moderna and Johnson & Johnson vaccines.

Students in a classroom in Hong Kong last month.Credit…Anthony Kwan for The New York Times

Hong Kong’s exodus is felt in schools

Hong Kong has been battered by two years of upheaval, between the pandemic and a sweeping political crackdown from Beijing. Many of the consequences have been immediately visible. Businesses have shuttered, politicians have been arrested, tourists have disappeared.

One major change is just coming into focus: some residents’ determination that the city is no longer where they want to raise their children. Primary schools will have 64 fewer first-grade classes this year than last. Some have lost as much as 15 percent of their students.

The education sphere is both a victim and a driver of the departures. Beginning this academic year, officials have pledged to instill obedience through mainland-China-style “patriotic education.”

Details: Last year, Hong Kong experienced a population drop of 1.2 percent, its biggest since the government began keeping records in the 1960s. From July 2020, when China imposed a national security law, through the following July, more than 89,000 people left the city of 7.5 million, according to provisional government data.

Supporters of President Bashar al-Assad of Syria held signs and flags in Damascus in May.Credit…Hassan Ammar/Associated Press

What Syria’s future looks like

Ten years since Syria’s war started with an uprising against Bashar al-Assad, our reporter took stock of the country under al-Assad’s rule.

Syrian people remain mired in poverty; millions of refugees in neighboring states are still afraid to go home; and the resource-rich northwestern territory is hostile to the government. But there is a sense among allies and neighbors that they will have to reconnect with al-Assad. Years of diplomacy and sanctions have failed to secure concessions from him. Many are now working to rebuild ties.

Still, many Syrians wonder whether the country can be put back together — if there is even a clear enough idea of what Syria is to rebuild the state on.

Details: Jordan’s King Abdullah II spoke to al-Assad for the first time in a decade. Senior officials in Lebanon asked for al-Assad’s help with electricity problems. An economic minister went to a trade expo in Dubai. The U.S. is backing a gas pipeline that would run through the country.


Asia Pacific

Members of the Bangladesh Navy checked in Rohingya people as they boarded a ship to Bhasan Char Island in December 2020.Credit…Mohammad Ponir Hossain/Reuters
  • Rohingya refugees who fled Myanmar were resettled by Bangladesh on the island of Bhasan Char, which is prone to flooding, cyclones and even disappearing underwater. Many have tried to escape.

  • An Australian man claimed on Facebook that a real estate agent did not pay his “employees” retirement funds. The lack of a punctuation mark may cost the accuser thousands.

  • After years of overspending, China’s top football teams are struggling to pay their players, threatening the country’s experiment with the global sport.

  • Evergrande’s creditors are considering their options as more payment deadlines loom this week.

Around the World

Diana Kipyokei won the women’s division of the 125th Boston Marathon on Monday.Credit…Allison Dinner for The New York Times
  • Two first-time champions from Kenya, Benson Kipruto and Diana Kipyokei, won the men’s and women’s races at the 125th Boston Marathon.

  • The U.S. airline Southwest Airlines canceled almost 2,000 flights this weekend, blaming air traffic control and weather. No other carrier reported problems.

  • The Nobel in economic science went to three researchers who have made a career of studying unintended experiments.

  • Cargo is piling up at global ports as the pandemic continues to snarl supply chains.

Morning Reads

Hirta, the archipelago’s largest island, comes into view in the distance — between Boreray, on the left, and the sea stack known as Stac an Armin, on the right. At center, in front of Hirta, is the sea stack Stac Lee.Credit…Stephen Hiltner/The New York Times

An 85-mile boat ride through rough seas to the remote Scottish archipelago of St. Kilda left many on our travel writer’s boat huddling in discomfort. But the trip was worth the visual splendor, he wrote: For centuries, St. Kilda’s jagged sea stacks, precipitous cliffs, open fields and unpredictable seas have electrified the imaginations of writers, historians, artists, scientists and adventurers.

Lives lived: Abdul Qadeer Khan made Pakistan a nuclear power. For at least 25 years, he built, bought, bartered and stole the makings of weapons of mass destruction. He died Sunday at 85.


The future of the flu vaccine

The flu causes three million to five million cases of severe illness every year and up to 650,000 deaths, despite the fact that we have had vaccines to fight it for eight decades.

“The bottom line is that the flu vaccines we have aren’t good enough,” said Nicholas Heaton, a virologist at Duke University School of Medicine.

For about three decades, researchers have been working on flu vaccines based on mRNA, which powers the Moderna and Pfizer coronavirus vaccines. They are made quickly from scratch instead of being grown for months in chicken eggs, which could make them better matched to each season’s flu strains. They may also provoke a stronger immune response.

When Moderna formed in 2010, influenza was one of its first targets. It ran an encouraging clinical trial of an mRNA flu vaccine in 2016, and in early 2020 it was preparing for a new trial — when Covid emerged.

Moderna had to shelve the trial, but it and other companies are still working on the technology. Approval could be a few years off, and efficacy may not be as high against the shape-shifting flu as it has been for the coronavirus, but researchers are hopeful it will improve on “not good enough.”


What to Cook

Credit…Andrew Scrivani for The New York Times

Embellish this simple-to-make lentil soup however you please.

What to Read

Albert Samaha’s “Concepcion” is an immersive, powerful memoir about his family’s journey from the Philippines to the U.S.


These 60 Chinese landscapes at the Metropolitan Museum of Art are demanding to the eye and mind alike.

Now Time to Play

Here’s today’s Mini Crossword, and a clue: James Bond, for one (three 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. Our Sydney bureau chief Damien Cave joined Climate Conversations to discuss The Times’s coverage of climate change from Australia.

The latest episode of “The Daily” is on which U.S. towns can be saved from the climate crisis.

Whet Moser wrote the Arts and Ideas section. You can reach Melina and the team at [email protected].

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