Omicron’s relentless march
The highly transmissible Omicron variant of the coronavirus, first detected last month, has swept the world, infecting millions of people and proving too quick to catch, even in countries with high vaccination rates.
This intimidating notion is tempered by early evidence that the variant causes milder symptoms, with vaccinations and boosters helping to prevent serious illness and death. More than 300,000 new cases of Covid were recorded in Britain between Saturday and Monday, but hospitalizations remained well below the peaks of last winter.
This rapid spread and Omicron’s dominance reflects what has been seen around the world. In Israel, the variant is expected to overtake Delta as the dominant in the country within days. Positive test results are disrupting businesses and wreaking havoc on global travel, entertainment and sporting events.
To analyse: John Bell, professor of medicine at Oxford and adviser to the UK government, said Omicron was “not the same disease we saw a year ago”.
Russian human rights group ordered shutdown
The Supreme Court of Russia has ordered the closure of Memorial, a human rights group founded more than three decades ago that chronicled political repression in the country, including persecution in labor camps in the Russian Federation. Stalinist era. The hearing drew dozens of protesters outside the courthouse.
The move comes after a year of sweeping crackdowns on opposition in Russia as the Kremlin has acted aggressively to quell dissent – in the media, in religious groups, on social media and especially among activists and political opponents, hundreds of whom have been harassed, imprisoned or forced into exile.
The liquidation of Memorial is another step in the efforts of Russian President Vladimir Putin to recast Russia’s legacy into a series of glorious achievements and to soften the image of the often brutal Soviet regime. The increasingly emboldened Kremlin has taken aggressive steps to suppress alternative interpretations of Russian history by organizations it does not control.
More soon: In a separate hearing scheduled for today, the Moscow City Court will rule on the closure of the Memorial Human Rights Center, which lists the current political prisoners in Russia. The center is accused of “justifying terrorist activities” by including members of banned religious organizations on the list.
Other news: The Nord Stream 2 Russia-Germany pipeline could provide abundant natural gas. But tensions with Vladimir Putin keep him out of reach.
Devastating floods in Brazil
At least 20 people have been killed and more than 50,000 driven from their homes by catastrophic floods that swept through northeastern Brazil and submerged entire neighborhoods, authorities said yesterday.
Rescue teams used boats and helicopters to reach parts of IlhÃ©us, Itabuna, IrecÃª and more than 100 other towns in Bahia state. Neighboring states sent planes and firefighters to aid police and members of the armed forces, while volunteers distributed donated food, mattresses and blankets for poorer communities.
For five years, northeastern Brazil suffered from persistent drought. But earlier this month, the skies opened, hitting Bahia with the state’s heaviest December precipitation in three decades, according to the Brazilian center for the monitoring of natural disasters. The extreme rains caused the collapse of two dams, further aggravating the situation.
Quote: “We have had other floods, other catastrophes with deaths, but nothing, absolutely nothing, with this territorial extension, with this number of cities affected at the same time and with the number of people affected by this storm”, a said Rui Costa, the governor of the state of Bahia.
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ARTS AND IDEAS
10 articles readers loved
Of the thousands of articles published by The Times this year, the 10 below were among those that people have spent a particularly long time reading. Help yourself to a hot drink, make yourself comfortable, and revisit these great reads.
Martina Navratilova has a lot to say. (June 6)
Katie Couric’s memoir includes family skeletons. (Oct 14)
That’s it for today’s briefing. Thanks for joining me. – Natasha
PS Jack Nicas, who has covered Silicon Valley tech, is our new office manager in Brazil.
The latest episode of “The Daily” features a Capitol Police officer who narrated on January 6th.
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