Your Wednesday Briefing

We’re covering India’s weak spots in preventing more Covid waves and China’s quiet handling of Evergrande’s crisis.

Getting a Covishield coronavirus vaccine in Ahmedabad, India, in June.Credit…Atul Loke for The New York Times

India’s Covid situation improves, but fears remain

India’s coronavirus crisis, which was killing thousands of people a day just seven months ago, has eased after the nation’s leaders revamped policies and drastically ramped up their vaccination drive.

Now, as India celebrates the delivery of its one billionth dose, a feat that until recently seemed improbable, public health experts are sounding a new warning: The turnaround is losing steam.

Vaccinations are slowing, with only one-quarter of India’s population fully inoculated. People are crowding again for religious festivals, and the government is still taking the approach that things are calming down.

Numbers: By official figures, daily infections have plunged to about 12,000 per day, from about 42,000 four months ago. Deaths, too, have fallen by half, to about 400 per day. More than three out of four adults have received at least one shot.

Context: India’s progress is a key part of ending the pandemic globally. After a deadly wave, the government threw money at vaccine production, stopped vaccine exports and tossed out cumbersome rules that had made it hard for local officials to procure shots.

What’s next: After Prime Minister Narendra Modi returned from a climate conference, he met with officials to tackle areas of the country where fewer than half of residents were fully vaccinated.

Here are the latest updates and maps of the pandemic.

In other developments:

  • Pfizer and BioNTech asked U.S. regulators for federal clearance for booster shots for all adults.

  • In Hong Kong, critics say that a new mandatory Covid safety app makes daily life difficult for people without homes and others without technology.

  • Singapore will stop covering medical Covid treatment costs for patients who decline to be vaccinated.

An idle construction site in Beijing for a residential project by the property developer Evergrande, which has heavy debt.Credit…Gilles Sabrié for The New York Times

As crisis grows, China says there is nothing to see

Global markets weeks ago were fretting over the possible failure of China Evergrande Group, the property developer, as it grapples with $300 billion of unpaid debts. A broader panic contributed to a wave of defaults among Chinese developers. Property value is still falling, and sales are plummeting.

But the developer says the worst is over, and the Chinese authorities say the risks are manageable even as other companies show signs of trouble. Evergrande and Beijing are managing the company’s struggles in secret, allowing it to meet some payment deadlines without explaining how.

The approach may stem panic, but it papers over broader pressures on the sector. “The fundamental situation for Evergrande hasn’t really changed,” Matthew Chow, a China property analyst and director at S&P Global Ratings, said. “We remain sure that default is almost a certainty.”

In flux: More than a million home buyers are waiting for unfinished apartments, and the company may owe money to just as many workers. Another deadline for Evergrande approaches on Wednesday, when the grace period on $150 million worth of bond payments will end.

A new solar panel in Lagos, Nigeria, last year.Credit…Akintunde Akinleye/EPA, via Shutterstock

African leaders say rich countries should cut oil first

As negotiators at the Glasgow climate talks try to agree on greenhouse gas cuts, African leaders say poorer countries can’t be expected to remake their systems as quickly as wealthy ones.

Sub-Saharan Africa contributes about 3 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions, among the lowest of the world’s regions. Yet African countries are particularly affected by the consequences of climate change.

Improvements can be costly, and many people still don’t have basic needs like electricity. Leaders point out that some wealthier countries keep natural gas in their own transition plans.

Context: Development banks and richer countries alike have been rolling back their support for fossil fuel projects, including ones in African countries with an abundance of fossil fuel resources.


Asia Pacific

New Zealand sea lions, among the rarest sea lion species, were once on every coast of the nation.Credit…Nature Picture Library/Alamy
  • After being decimated by hunters, New Zealand’s sea lions are returning — sometimes surprising locals at unexpected places like football fields and golf courses.

  • The U.S. is urging Beijing to release Zhang Zhan, a Chinese citizen journalist who highlighted the emergence of Covid. Her family said she was seriously ill in a Shanghai prison.

  • A fire in the infant care unit of a hospital in Bhopal, India, killed at least four newborns, the latest in a series of deadly hospital blazes linked to short circuits.

Around the World

Christopher Wray, the F.B.I. director, left, and Attorney General Merrick Garland at the Justice Department on Monday.Credit…Andrew Harnik/Associated Press
  • U.S. officials charged a Russian man with conducting cyberattacks, including one that shut down a meat supply giant, and recovered more than $6 million in ransom.

  • Twitter said on Tuesday that it would give users access to ad-free articles from The Washington Post, Reuters, BuzzFeed and other publications through its subscription service, called Twitter Blue.

  • A distress signal created to use on TikTok and other social media platforms helped save a missing girl.

  • Four astronauts inside a SpaceX capsule returned home on Monday night with a safe water landing in the Gulf of Mexico.

A Morning Read

From left, Phillip Lim, Ezra J. William, Laura Kim, Prabal Gurung and Tina Leung at the House of Slay party.Credit…Nina Westervelt for The New York Times

A web superhero comic book series about five Asian best friends is debuting this week. The characters in “House of Slay” are based on real friends who work in the fashion industry and became Instagram-famous as a group under the hashtag #Slaysians. “There are so many kids, especially Asians, that feel othered or who don’t fit in,” Phillip Lim, a designer, said. “Showing these kids that real people like us can become superheroes is so important.”


What happened at Astroworld?

Travis Scott performed on day one of the Astroworld Music Festival in Houston on Friday.Credit…Amy Harris/Invision/Associated Press

For years, fans have flocked to Travis Scott’s concerts for their wild energy and high-concept stage production. He’s part of a generation of performers “who brought a punk-rock sensibility to the mass scale of modern rap,” Joe Coscarelli writes in The Times. That includes mosh pits, crowd-surfing and the kind of rowdy behavior that happens at many live shows without becoming dangerous.

It turned dangerous at Scott’s Astroworld festival in Houston last Friday, when eight people died and hundreds were injured. The authorities are still investigating what caused the crowd of 50,000 people to surge.

Attendees have already filed at least 20 lawsuits against Scott and the festival’s organizers, including one that accused the rapper of encouraging violence. Others involved with the festival have questioned whether the police should have shut down the show earlier, and whether the medical preparations were sufficient.

Scott said on Saturday that he did not know the extent of the emergency at the time. But, as Coscarelli writes, the tragedy in Houston has turned one of Scott’s biggest selling points — the energy of his live performances — into an argument for his culpability.


What to Cook

Credit…Kate Sears for The New York Times

These rice cakes with peanut sauce and hoisin are vegan and reminiscent of the classic Cantonese dim sum of fried cheung fun, or steamed rice noodle rolls.

What to Read

In Jung Yun’s mesmerizing second novel “O Beautiful,” all that stands between a writer and the career of her dreams is a trip to the land of her nightmares.

What to Listen To

Ed Sheeran’s new album, “=” (pronounced “equals”), opened at the top of the Billboard 200.

Now Time to Play

Here’s today’s Mini Crossword, and a clue: “It’s the Hard Knock Life” musical (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. The National Press Foundation named The Times’s Dean Baquet as Editor of the Year.

The latest episode of “The Daily” features a discussion with a Democratic lawmaker about President Biden’s infrastructure bill.

Sanam Yar wrote the Arts and Ideas. You can reach Melina and the team at

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