Japan approves its first Covid-19 vaccine
Japan gave the green light to the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine and will begin inoculations this week. The country’s health authorities have been slower than those in the U.S. and Europe to approve a vaccine, but they are not as desperate as those other places because infection rates in Japan are lower.
A state of emergency remains in effect in Tokyo and other regions until March 7, in part because of the appearance of new coronavirus variants. The number of new cases has dropped drastically, to a seven-day average now under 2,000 from its peak of 8,000 daily new infections in January.
Details: Officials plan to first vaccinate a group of health care workers who will then administer the shots to other medical professionals. The vaccine will be rolled out to older people and high-risk populations by late spring, but Japan is unlikely to have its entire population vaccinated before it hosts the Olympic Games this summer.
Myanmar’s military moves to crush protests
In cities across the country on Sunday evening, armored vehicles and trucks filled with soldiers moved in.
Security forces fired rubber bullets, water cannons and tear gas at a crowd. Troops surrounded the houses of government workers who had dared to join the campaign to oppose the Feb. 1 coup that ousted Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, the country’s civilian leader.
The military information unit issued a statement explaining the sudden buildup: “Security forces will be performing day and night security for the public to sleep peacefully in the community.”
A warning: Ambassadors from several Western nations, including the U.S., urged the military to “refrain from violence against demonstrators and civilians, who are protesting the overthrown of their legitimate government.”“We support the people of Myanmar in their quest for democracy, freedom, peace, and prosperity,” their joint statement said. “The world is watching.”
If you have 6 minutes, this is worth it
An appetite for change in the Middle East
A decade ago, a fruit seller in Tunisia set himself on fire after a policewoman slapped him and confiscated his scale, and his death crystallized popular frustrations across the region. Protesters forced Tunisia’s autocrat, Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali, into exile, and demonstrations erupted in Egypt, above, Libya, Yemen, Bahrain and Syria.
Those Arab Spring uprisings mostly failed, but they gave people a taste for the possibility of democracy. “The younger generations saw what happened,” said Tarek el-Menshawy, 39, in Cairo. “It’s like a shark when they smell blood. Freedom is like this. We smelled it once, so we’ll keep trying.”
Here’s what else is happening
China repression: The Utsuls, a community of about 10,000 Muslims on the resort island of Hainan, are among the latest to emerge as targets of the Chinese Communist Party’s campaign against foreign influence and religions.
Carlos Ghosn case: A U.S. Supreme Court justice cleared the way for Michael Taylor, a former Green Beret, and his son Peter Maxwell Taylor, to be extradited from the U.S. to Japan to face trial on charges of helping the former Nissan chief escape Japan to Lebanon.
Philippines universities: The government has ended a 32-year agreement struck after the end of the Marcos dictatorship that banned security forces from entering university campuses and arresting individuals. Students say the universities are among the few places where criticism of President Rodrigo Duterte is still tolerated.
Australian Open: Serena Williams beat the 22-year-old Belarusian Aryna Sabalenka, who turned pro at 14, like Williams. Here’s what to watch next.
Snapshot: Above, the northeastern Japanese city of Nihonmatsu, where a landslide was triggered by a strong earthquake. More than 100 people were injured and nearly one million households were left without power after the quake struck late Saturday. The epicenter was off the coast of Fukushima, near where three nuclear reactors melted down after a quake and tsunami almost exactly 10 years ago.
What we’re looking at: @gourmetbiologist’s Instagram videos. “The conservationist and wildlife photographer Sean Graesser gives viewers the most amazing close-ups of awesome birds from his field work,” says Andrea Kannapell, the Briefings editor. “Stunning.”
Now, a break from the news
Cook: Stuffed or topped with sugared coconut, pecan pie filling or salted pretzels, these brownies are not about subtlety. Melissa Clark said she developed the recipes “to satisfy the depths of my chocolaty desire.”
Listen: Chick Corea, the pioneering keyboardist and bandleader who died last week at the age of 79, will be forever regarded as a crucial architect of jazz-rock fusion. Here are 12 of his best performances.
Do: What should you wear for your first job? Vanessa Friedman, our fashion director, offers advice.
We can help you find some “me time.” At Home has our full collection of ideas on what to read, cook, watch and do while staying safe at home.
And now for the Back Story on …
Tracking the origins of the coronavirus
Peter Daszak was a member of the World Health Organization’s investigative research team that recently traveled to Wuhan, China, to try to uncover the origins of the coronavirus. An animal disease specialist, he spoke with our science reporter James Gorman about the mission.
Did you learn anything from this trip that you didn’t know before?
From Day 1, the data we were seeing were new that had never been seen outside China. Who were the vendors in the Huanan seafood market [the seafood market where the initial outbreak occurred last year]? Where did they get their supply chains? And what were the contacts of the first cases? How real were the first cases? What other clusters were there?
When you asked for more, the Chinese scientists would go off, and a couple of days later, they’ve done the analysis, and we’ve got new information. It was extremely useful.
What can you say now about the market and what you saw?
The market closed on the 31st of December or the 1st of January, and China C.D.C. sent a team in of scientists to try and find out what was going on. It was a very extensive study, swabbing every surface of this place. We knew early on that there were 500 samples collected, and there were many positives, and in that sampling were some animal carcasses, or meat. But there was not really much information publicly about what had been done. So we got all that information. And that, to me, was a real eye-opener.
They’d actually done over 900 swabs in the end, a huge amount of work.
Do you have a particular animal that you suspect right now as an intermediate link, more strongly than others?
It’s too up in the air. We don’t know if civets were on sale. We know they are very easily infected. We don’t know what the situation is with the mink farms in China or the other fur farms, like raccoon dogs, even though they’re normally farmed in a different part of China. That needs to be followed up on, too.
That’s it for this briefing. See you next time.
To Theodore Kim and Jahaan Singh for the break from the news. You can reach the team at [email protected]
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