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Your Wednesday Briefing


Cities and countries that seemed to have brought their outbreaks under control are tightening their borders as they face worries about a new wave of infections from abroad.

A surge in cases tied to international travelers led China, Hong Kong, Singapore and Taiwan to close their borders to foreigners in recent days. They also imposed measures like steep fines for leaving home and tracking bracelets to monitor quarantines.

It’s a troubling sign for the United States, Europe and other places still battling their first wave of outbreaks. Success with containment could be tenuous, and the world could remain on a kind of indefinite lockdown until a vaccine or treatment is found.

Reporter analysis: Motoko Rich, our Tokyo bureau chief, has been covering the coronavirus outbreak for months. She elaborated on some of the psychological toll that can result from being indefinitely locked down: “Being isolated for a long time, without physical and social contact with people from around the world, may have a profound effect at a societal as well as individual level.”

For hundreds of millions of Indians in the informal work force, like rickshaw drivers and water deliverers, social distancing is an unheard-of luxury.

They make up about 80 percent of India’s work force, but don’t have contracts and protection under labor laws.

One such worker, Ashu, spends his days at one of Delhi’s biggest dumps, scavenging for scrap metal. “I hear there is a virus from China going around,” Ashu said. “But I’m more afraid of the police and not being able to eat.”

The coronavirus outbreak in Afghanistan is yet another test of survival for a country where life has been a struggle for decades.

Ordinary Afghans have stepped up to share what little they have — waiving rent, delivering food and running fund-raising events. They are tapping into a culture of generosity that many feared had been eroded by decades of war, greed and corruption.

In Kandahar Province, a tailor named Mohammad Younas turned his shop into a mask factory and is handing his products out to the poor. He said he came up with the idea after realizing that the cost of masks in drugstores was too high for most people; about half the population lives below the poverty line.

Context: The virus is spreading across Afghanistan during a raging Taliban insurgency. An election dispute has split the government and prompted the United States to reduce aid by $1 billion.

Chinese fleets have been illegally fishing in a rich part of the South China Sea that is internationally recognized as belonging to Indonesia. Trawlers scrape the bottom of the sea for their catch — destroying other marine life — and expand Beijing’s maritime claims.

Wary of offending their country’s biggest trading partner, Indonesian officials have played down the conflict. But Indonesian fishers are worried about the increasing aggression.

2020 presidential campaign: Advisers for former Vice President Joe Biden are scrambling to find new ways to raise funds as worries grow that the coronavirus outbreak could reduce contributions from donors.

Marine life: Scientists recently raced to explore an underwater forest, which could hold untold treasures in the form of new pharmaceuticals, before it disappears.

Snapshot: Above, zebras strike a pose in Zambia. With travel restrictions in place worldwide, we’re turning to photojournalists who can help transport you, virtually, to some of our planet’s most beautiful and intriguing places.

What we’re reading: This Vice interview with the writer Barbara Ehrenreich. “I can’t say it’s uplifting, but Ehrenreich is one of our best thinkers about exactly the issues we’re facing, like the economy, inequality and health,” says Dan Saltzstein, a special projects editor.

Cook: A sardine and celery salad from our pantry cooking series. Melissa Clark calls it a “perfect pairing,” and suggests bulking it up with an egg.

Listen: Some are using their time at home to debate the best wideouts in N.F.L. history, or to address the relative merits of fast-food fries. Our classical music critics have taken on the task of ranking recordings of Beethoven’s symphonies. (Also with the earphones: There’s something heart-swelling about this Modern Love podcast.)

Watch: Not ready to commit to a multiseason series? It’s a jittery time. Here are the best one-season wonders you can stream in a single day, if you take the task seriously. And Kyle Turner will introduce you to the dreamy, mystical animation of the filmmaker Jodie Mack — short film, big smiles.

As home cooking takes on new meaning, Margaux Laskey, an editor for NYT Cooking, talked to Times Insider about her go-to recipes, dealing with erratic grocery deliveries, using up all those half-boxes of pasta and focusing on comfort foods like rice and beans. And ice cream. Here’s what she had to say:

What kind of recipes have you gravitated toward?

Using things that I have, and that’s a lot of frozen or pantry items. So, canned beans or dried beans. I always have an extra jar of Rao’s spaghetti sauce on my shelf. I was just having a conversation with somebody about how this is the time to use up all of those weird half boxes of pasta you have. Basically, I’m just trying to use what I have and what’s in the freezer. And, if I have any leftovers, pulling those out.

What’s in your grocery cart these days?

I get fresh fruit and vegetables for sure, because we have to stay healthy. Also, I’m leaning toward comforting foods that I know my kids will eat, things that I know they like. This is not the time, for my family anyway, to try a crazy dish. There’s enough uncertainty and enough weirdness about all of this.

So I get my go-tos that I get every week, and then more rice and beans. And ice cream. For sure, ice cream.

What’s been difficult about cooking lately?

Normally, I plan my menu on Friday for the next week, and I put my grocery order in — and maybe I won’t get one or two items, but I get nearly everything that I ordered. Now, first of all, you’re not even sure you’re going to get a slot. Then, you’re not even sure you’re going to get everything.

A correction: Tuesday’s briefing misstated the surname of a writer whose essay about adult friendship appeared in The Cut. She is Samantha Irby, not Kirby.

That’s it for this briefing. See you next time.

— Melina

Thank you
Theodore Kim and Jahaan Singh provided the break from the news. You can reach the team at [email protected].

• We’re listening to “The Daily.” Our latest episode is about the shortage of medical supplies in the U.S.
• Here’s our Mini Crossword, and a clue: Plant life (five letters). You can find all our puzzles here.
• For a limited time, our Games team has made Spelling Bee free and offered more daily free plays for Tiles.


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