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Beirut Blasts, Coronavirus, #MeToo: Your Wednesday Briefing

2020-08-05 06:56:32
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Good morning.

We’re covering the aftermath of the Beirut explosions, eyebrow-raising appointments to Britain’s House of Lords and a tough new lockdown in Australia.

Australia’s second-largest city has imposed some of the toughest restrictions in the world to beat back a new wave of coronavirus infections. Officials are promising a “shock and awe” attack on the virus that will last at least six weeks.

There are signs that people in Melbourne are getting fed up. Our Sydney bureau chief writes that “the new waves of restrictions feel to many like a bombing raid that just won’t end.” A door-to-door campaign to check in on 3,000 people who had contracted the virus found that 800 of them were not at home.

The police are facing opposition as they enforce the rules. Officers recently smashed the windows of cars and pulled people out after they refused to provide their names and addresses.

The second wave: Melbourne thought it had beat the virus in June. But the city’s hotel quarantine program broke down, with travelers passing the virus to security guards, who carried it to their neighborhoods.

Details: Under the new restrictions, stores will close, schools will return to at-home instruction and restaurants will offer only takeaway or delivery. An 8 p.m. curfew is in place. The outbreak in the state of Victoria, whose capital is Melbourne, peaked at 753 new cases on July 30 and has hovered at about 500 a day ever since.

Here are the latest updates and maps of the pandemic.

In other developments:

  • Recent studies of patients with severe Covid-19 cases found that their immune systems unleashed a misguided barrage of weapons that could wreak havoc on healthy tissues.

  • After Russia announced a vaccination program set for October, raising concerns that inoculations may begin before tests are complete, the World Health Organization urged it to follow guidelines for producing safe and effective vaccines.

  • Two preliminary studies of an experimental vaccine in the U.S. have yielded encouraging results, said Novovax, the company developing the vaccine.

Snapshot: Above, an Australian Army helicopter landing on the Micronesian island of Pulap to rescue three stranded sailors on Sunday. If you’re ever in their shoes, remember that writing SOS in giant letters on the sand can actually work.

What we’re reading: This article in Harper’s Magazine on the use of they/them as gender-neutral pronouns. “This beautifully written essay, with its deep insight into the history of pronouns and their usage and its gentle humor, helped me to accept and understand the beauty of ‘they’ in its singular form,” Melissa Eddy, our Berlin correspondent, writes.

Cook: This tomato and peach salad with whipped goat cheese works as a starter, a side or a supper, piled on top of grilled bread.

Watch: The new documentary “Creem: America’s Only Rock ’n’ Roll Magazine” traces the rise and fall of the irreverent, boundary-smashing music publication from the 1970s.

Do: In-person job interviews went away when the pandemic closed so many offices. If you’re a job seeker, here are tips on acing an online interview.

At Home has our full collection of ideas on what to read, cook, watch and do.

Americans have been battling surprise medical bills for coronavirus treatment for nearly as long as they’ve been fighting the virus itself, according to Sarah Kliff, our investigative reporter on health issues.

So she started a project that uses those bills, sent by readers, to examine the cost of testing and treatment. We’ll be sharing their stories as we explore how the virus outbreak is changing health care in the U.S. Here’s what she wrote about the project.

I’m a reporter who has been writing articles about those bills since mid-February. My first article focused on an American man and his 3-year-old daughter who faced more than $3,900 in bills for care received during a government-mandated quarantine.

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