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Your Wednesday Briefing

We’re covering new restrictions as Asia and Australia battle the Delta variant, and how rebels took back Tigray’s capital.

Countries in the Asia-Pacific region with slow vaccination campaigns are scrambling to slow the spread of the coronavirus’s more infectious Delta variant by imposing new restrictions.

Residents in Bangladesh and Malaysia have been ordered to stay at home, with Bangladesh sending soldiers to patrol the streets to ensure that no one is leaving. Authorities in Australia have imposed strict lockdowns in Sydney, Brisbane, Perth, and Darwin.

Residents are becoming frustrated, having already been subjected to several lockdowns in some cases. “My restaurant is known for its hospitality and shared dishes, the polar opposite of social distancing,” one restaurant owner near Kuala Lumpur explained. This lockdown “might be the last straw” for his company, he said.

Context: Studies have shown that Covid-19 vaccines are still largely effective against the Delta variant, though partial vaccination provides significantly less protection. “If we can get a really high vaccination rate, that completely changes the game,” said an epidemiology expert in Melbourne.

Eight months after the Ethiopian Army attacked the Tigray region, the civil war has taken a turn: Tigrayan fighters have retaken control of Mekelle, the regional capital. Residents gathered in the streets to celebrate. Here are the most recent updates.

The rebel forces have made it clear that they are not interested in a truce. Senior rebel members stated that they would continue to fight and that they were prepared to pursue Eritrean forces who had joined the Ethiopian troops on their territory.

The dramatic turnaround was a setback for Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, who promised in November that his offensive would be over in a matter of weeks. After eight months of violence in which Eritrean troops have been accused of atrocities, the war appears to be dragging on.

Turning the tide: Tigrayan forces were clearly on the defensive at the start of the war. Nonetheless, the insurgents have managed to regroup. Furthermore, the invasion and human rights violations have drawn a large number of recruits into the group’s ranks.

Almost two million people have been displaced as a result of the disaster. The region is dealing with a slew of crises, including a lack of water and education, as well as a famine that has left millions hungry.


General Austin Miller, the commander of the US-led mission in Afghanistan, warned that the country could be on the verge of a chaotic, multifaceted civil war as US and international troops prepare to leave in the coming weeks.

“If the current trajectory continues, civil war is certainly a path that can be visualised,” Miller said during a rare news conference in Kabul. “That should be a global concern.”

He did not provide a timetable for when the withdrawal would be completed, but stated that he was nearing the end of his command, which began in September 2018.

The creative outdoor table setups necessitated by the pandemic have transformed New York’s dining scene. But, as the outbreak fades and the rules loosen, how does the city maintain the romance? Our food critic has some suggestions.

Invading British soldiers stole thousands of artefacts from the Kingdom of Benin, which is now part of Nigeria, in 1897. The events are known as the Punitive Expedition in the United Kingdom. Because of the residents who were killed by British forces, they are known as the Benin Massacre in Nigeria.

Activists, historians, and royals in Nigeria have called for the art’s return, but museums have refused, claiming that their global collections serve “the people of every nation.”

However, as Europe confronts its colonial past, some institutions are shifting their stance. Germany has stated that it will return a large number of Benin Bronzes (as the items are known) next year, and the National Museum of Ireland has stated that it will return 21 objects. The works will most likely go to a new museum in Benin City, which is set to open in 2026.

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