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Coronavirus, China, Aleksei Navalny: Your Friday Briefing


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Good morning.

We’re covering China’s troubled relationship with Europe, growing concerns about a virus uptick across the continent and new details on the poisoning of Aleksei Navalny.

The World Health Organization on Thursday warned of a “very serious” resurgence of the coronavirus across Europe but said that transmission could be contained by local rather than national measures. “We have a very serious situation unfolding before us,” Hans Kluge, the W.H.O.’s regional director for Europe, said. “Weekly cases have now exceeded those reported when the pandemic first peaked in Europe in March.”

The number of virus cases has increased by more than 10 percent in the past two weeks in over half the countries of Europe. In seven of those countries, the number of cases has doubled. The region has recorded at least 220,000 deaths from the virus.

In France, cities including Lyon and Nice have experienced a worrying rise in cases and will have to enact new restrictions on public gatherings. The country’s rate per capita of new cases over the last seven days is currently one of the highest in Europe, with 91 cases per 100,000 residents, up from 10 at the end of July.

Here are the latest updates and maps of the pandemic.

In other developments:

  • Starting Friday, nearly two million people in northeast England will be restricted from meeting with anyone outside their households.

  • New Zealand has entered its first recession in a decade. New data showed that the economy shrank 12.2 percent in the second quarter, the country’s biggest fall on record.

  • Australia intends to increase the number of people who can enter the country each week by about 2,000, starting from the end of next week.

  • In the Czech Republic, roughly a quarter of the country’s 41,000 total cases were reported over the last week as the country battled one of the fastest-growing outbreaks in Europe.

In the Babel Tower of French politics, everyone agrees at least on this: Crime is out of control.

Except — it isn’t. Despite warnings from the far right, traditional conservatives, the presumed Green Party candidate and the ministers of President Emmanuel Macron’s cabinet, nearly all major crimes are lower than they were a decade ago or three years ago, and despite a one-year spike, the 970 homicides recorded in 2019 were fewer than the 1,051 in 2000.

Instead, the debate over crime seems to be a proxy for debates about immigration, Islam, race, national identity and other combustible issues. The country’s traditional social fabric is increasingly being challenged by racial and ethnic minorities and by women who have protested injustices such as sexual abuse and police violence.

Political angle: For the far right, a focus on crime is good news. “This theme can take us to victory in the regional and departmental elections, and then in the presidential election,” one far-right aide said. “We’re on our ground. It’s a home game.”

Long-simmering European frustrations with Chinese policies, on matters as varied as trade and human rights, have reached a boiling point this year in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic. For Beijing, it’s a problem: China had set its sights on Europe as a potential pragmatic partner, particularly amid its rapidly deteriorating relations with the United States.

For China’s leader, Xi Jinping, a lasting shift in European views poses an enormous challenge. In the short term, it threatens to undermine the country’s post-pandemic economic recovery by stifling new investments as the United States restricts them, especially in high tech. In the longer term, it could blunt his ambitions for China to offer an alternative to the United States as the global leader dictating the rules for governance and trade.

European concerns: In a virtual summit between Mr. Xi and the European Union’s leadership, Europeans raised a litany of concerns, including China’s slow moves to combat climate change, its crackdowns in Hong Kong and Tibet, the imprisonment of a Swedish bookseller, the arrests of two Canadians in transparent retaliation for a criminal extradition case and China’s unilateral moves in the disputed waters of the South China Sea.

At 26, Jennifer Laude died at the hands of an American she had met at a nightclub, a Marine who was in the Philippines for joint military exercises. After discovering that Ms. Laude was transgender, Lance Cpl. Joseph Scott Pemberton choked her and pushed her head into a toilet bowl until she drowned.

Human rights advocates had been fighting to hold American service members accountable for violence against women in the Philippines for years. The Marine’s conviction seemed to be a step in the right direction. But on Sept. 13, Lance Corporal Pemberton was put aboard a U.S. military plane and flown out of the Philippines, a free man. He had served less than six years. Our reporter looked at why he was freed and what the case means for people in the Philippines.

Brexit: In a pointed tweet, former Vice President Joe Biden warned Boris Johnson, Britain’s prime minister, that any deal with the European Union would have to protect the Irish peace agreement.

Aleksei Navalny: Aides to the Russian opposition leader said he had been poisoned at his hotel in Siberia, and not at the airport as originally believed, by a water bottle tainted with a highly toxic nerve agent.

Greece: A rare Mediterranean cyclone is expected to slam into the country with full force on Friday, with hurricane-strength winds and life-threatening flooding in some places. Meanwhile, thousands of migrants displaced by a fire at the Moria camp have been relocated to a temporary tent camp elsewhere on the island of Lesbos.

Snapshot: Above, the Greek island of Chios, where everyone knows if you have Covid-19. The island of 50,000 residents has had about 30 cases since the outbreak began, and no deaths. The main fear on Chios, our reporter found, was of outsiders like her bringing the virus in.

Lives lived: The award-winning playwright Steve Carter, who explored the African-American and Caribbean-American experiences with incisiveness, humor and a willingness to wrestle with difficult themes, died at 90 on Tuesday in Tomball, Texas.

24 Hours of Le Mans: The world’s oldest sports-car endurance race will be held this weekend in the city in northwestern France. For the first time in its history, an all-female team will compete in the LMP2 class, though no spectators will be present to cheer them on.

What we’re reading: This essay in The Cut by the model Emily Ratajkowski about what happens when you lose control of your own image. Vanessa Friedman, our fashion director and chief fashion critic, writes that the piece “is unflinching and unapologetic, and adds a new twist to the discussion around models’ rights as engendered by #MeToo.”

Cook: This one-pot Japanese curry chicken and rice relies on a few spices to mimic traditional Japanese curry flavors.

Read: One for your reading list: Former President Barack Obama’s new memoir, “A Promised Land,” will be released in 25 languages, including Chinese, Arabic and Vietnamese, in November.

Watch: “I’ve Got Issues,” a surreal comedy of despair and deliverance, “isn’t a pretty picture, in either sense of the word,” our reviewer writes, “but it is a profoundly empathetic one.”

Preparing for another weekend indoors? At Home has lots of ideas on what to read, cook, watch and do.

Throughout the pandemic, there has been speculation about why some communities seem to be hit harder than others or why one country might suddenly experience a greater rate of fatality than its neighbor, including strained hypotheses about different versions of the virus and dubious race-based claims about how Covid-19 affects different demographic groups.

Donald G. McNeil Jr., a science and health reporter for The Times who covers infectious diseases and global health, said that differences in outbreaks are often simply a matter of time.

“Once a case, or a few cases, arrive, it can spread exponentially,” he said. “But with borders as nonporous as they are these days, it may take days or weeks for one or a few cases to arrive in a new country.” The severity of an outbreak might also reveal something about a particular place, its approach to containing the virus or the population in the line of fire, he said.

In Belgium, for instance, which had the highest death rate per capita on the European continent, The Times reported that the authorities had mostly left nursing homes to fend for themselves: During the peak of the crisis, from March through mid-May, nursing home residents accounted for two out of every three coronavirus deaths.

According to a New York Times database, one of the countries logging the highest rates of deaths per capita is Peru, which is suffering a shortage of oxygen to administer to patients. “Up to 20 percent of all symptomatic Covid cases need oxygen to survive,” Donald said. “In Peru, the two companies that made oxygen served only the lucrative private hospitals, so there was a huge oxygen shortage there; plus much of the population lives at high altitude where oxygen is short anyway.”

We’ll have more on that topic soon.

Thanks for joining me for this week’s briefings. See you on Monday.

— Natasha

Thank you
To Theodore Kim and Jahaan Singh for the break from the news. You can reach the team at briefing@nytimes.com.

• We’re listening to “The Daily.” Our latest episode is about the refugee crisis in the Moira camp on the island of Lesbos.
• Here’s our Mini Crossword, and a clue: “Like a pizza without meat or real cheese” (Five letters). You can find all our puzzles here.
• These crowdsourced six-word pandemic memoirs sum up an extraordinary year. A favorite? “The world has never felt smaller.”
• The Times won three Deadline Club awards from the New York chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists.

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