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.

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 undergo three 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.


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:


“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.

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 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

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

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

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

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

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

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