Your Wednesday Briefing: Beijing’s Mass Testing Plan

Good morning. We’re covering Beijing’s scramble to quash the Omicron variant, Germany’s pivot to supplying Ukraine with heavy weaponry and a brownface controversy roiling Hong Kong.

Beijing officials said samples for coronavirus testing had been gathered from nearly four million people on Monday alone.Credit…Carlos Garcia Rawlins/Reuters

Mass testing in Beijing

Faced with a growing number of coronavirus infections across Beijing, city officials are trying to test most of the Chinese capital’s 22 million residents in the hope of avoiding the pain of imposing a citywide lockdown like in Shanghai.

Beijing is ordering mass testing across the city more quickly than in Shanghai, where officials started testing on a similar scale only after infections had been recorded for weeks and more than 1,000 cases had emerged. On Tuesday, officials said that 22 new cases had been found in the city.

The idea is to move faster with testing to understand how widely the outbreak has spread before seeking to impose restrictions on movement. Unlike Shanghai, Beijing does not yet appear to have interfered with established private-sector distribution and delivery.

Details: About three-quarters of Beijing’s population will have to undergothree mandatory rounds of testing in five days. Only those who live in outlying, mostly rural districts are exempt.

Shanghai: Residents are banding together to support each other through the city’s lockdown, which has lasted about a month. The restrictions — a source of rising public anger — have forced Shanghai’s economy to a halt and prevented people with life-threatening illnesses from getting prompt medical care.

Here are the latest updates and maps of the pandemic.

In other developments:

  • U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris, who is fully vaccinated and has received two boosters, tested positive for the coronavirus.

  • The C.D.C. said that most Americans have had the virus at least once.

  • Scientists do not yet have a definitive answer as to whether vaccines protect against long Covid.

Russians are targeting towns like Orikhiv, in eastern Ukraine.Credit…Lynsey Addario for The New York Times

A more muscular NATO?

As fighting intensifies in eastern Ukraine, both Russia and Western countries are raising the stakes and the rhetoric.

On Tuesday, Germany announced it would send Ukraine heavy weapons for the first time, a day after the top Pentagon official said the U.S. objective in the war was a “weakened” Russia. The U.S. marshaled more than 40 allies to pledge more military support to Kyiv.

In response, Moscow accused the West of pursuing a proxy war and ignoring the “considerable” risk that it could spiral into a nuclear conflict. Here are live updates.

Details: Germany will send Ukraine dozens of radar-equipped heavy tanks, designed for air defense. The move is a significant policy shift: As recently as last week, Chancellor Olaf Scholz implied that could lead to a bigger war involving NATO.

Energy: Europe’s long tack away from nuclear power makes it harder to end its reliance on Russian oil and gas. A shift back could take years, and U.S. oil companies are not stepping up to bail the bloc out.

Other updates:

  • In the south, Russian missiles struck the city of Zaporizhzhia on Tuesday. Russian forces also have seized the City Council building in Kherson, the city’s mayor warned.

  • In the east, the small town of Orikhiv is just one of many Ukrainian communities under constant fire.

“If we’re making movies about aliens, and we can’t find an alien to the play the part, are we discriminating against aliens?” a leader at the company headquarters said. “This is what the plot calls for.”Credit…Alex Hofford/Epa-Efe/Rex/Shutterstock

Hong Kong’s brownface debate

“Barrack O’Karma 1968,” a supernatural TV series in Hong Kong, recently aired a subplot in which a domestic worker from the Philippines is transformed by her seemingly well-intentioned employers into a Cantonese-speaking surrogate daughter.

Its producers chose a Chinese Canadian actress to play the worker. It also put her in brownface. (Her skin grows lighter and she also gains a new fluency in Hong Kong’s dominant language.)

Filipinos criticized the show for its all-too-familiar undignified representation. Many others viewed the casting as a twinned mockery of both racism and classism.

But many others said it was a matter of creative autonomy. Chinese-language media jumped to defend the actress, who has since apologized on social media.

Details: Backstage footage emerged of the actress, Franchesca Wong, affecting a singsong accent — presumably meant to be Filipino — as she brushed dark makeup onto her legs.

Society: About 203,000 Filipinos live in Hong Kong, forming the largest non-Chinese ethnic group in the city. About 190,000 are domestic workers.


World News

North Korea state media described this as a newly built intercontinental ballistic missile shown in the miliary parade.Credit…Korean Central News Agency, via Associated Press
  • In a military parade on Monday, Kim Jong-un vowed to expand North Korea’s nuclear arsenal “at the fastest possible speed​.”

  • President Emmanuel Macron of France still faces steep challenges, despite his decisive victory: The far right enjoyed its strongest ever showing at the ballot box on Sunday.

What Else Is Happening

  • Elon Musk now has to contend with the realities of his free-speech talk, our tech columnist writes. The company’s move may have been good for its investors, but it had little if any regard for other stakeholders.

  • Harvard will spend $100 million to study and redress its ties to slavery.

  • Clusters of severe hepatitis cases have popped up among children around the globe. Here are signs parents should watch out for.

A Morning Read

Credit…Saehan Parc

You can now buy NFTs on apps for toddlers, often peddled by internet-native cartoon characters. The toddler-specific social media — a marketplace, like any other on the internet — is pitched to parents as “a creative outlet, an educational opportunity, even a civic duty to join in,” the critic Amanda Hess writes.


The 2022 Venice Biennale on Saturday.Credit…Gus Powell for The New York Times

The year’s biggest art show

The crowds are a bit thinner, and there are fewer mega-yachts, but the Venice Biennale remains “art’s most combustible mixture of creative minds, spectacular wealth and a global culture stumbling its way toward the future,” Jason Farago writes in a review.

The Biennale consists of a main exhibition of contemporary art, along with more than 90 pavilions where countries organize their own shows. This year’s main show revolves around surrealism, cyborgism, and animal and plant life, and the majority of participants are women. It’s “a coherent and challenging show, whose optimistic vision of emancipation through imagination feels very rare nowadays,” Jason writes.

A few highlights from the national presentations: Stan Douglas of Canada used photography and video art to delve into the intersecting uprisings of 2011 (the Arab Spring, Occupy Wall Street, the London riots). And Małgorzata Mirga-Tas, a Roma artist, created a 12-part tapestry stitched with imagery of Romani migration and everyday life. — Sanam Yar


What to Cook

Credit…Dane Tashima for The New York Times

Pan-fry breaded flounder in this 30-minute recipe for fish Milanese.

What to Read

In “The Palace Papers,” Tina Brown traces how 21st-century journalism has helped reshape the British royal family.

What to Watch

A son must save his mother in “Luzifer,” an ambitious German thriller that tackles questions of religious fanaticism and capitalist greed.

Now Time to Play

Play today’s Mini Crossword, and a clue: Rhyming place to fly (three letters).

Here are today’s Wordle and today’s Spelling Bee.

You can find all our puzzles here.

That’s it for today’s briefing. See you next time. — Amelia

P.S. Dean Baquet, the outgoing executive editor of The Times, will lead a local investigative reporting fellowship.

The latest episode of “The Daily” is on masks.

You can reach Amelia and the team at [email protected].

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