Your Wednesday Briefing

We’re covering India’s boost to its vaccine campaign and Unesco’s warning about the Great Barrier Reef.

India ramps up Covid vaccinations

India administered 8.6 million doses of Covid vaccines on Monday, setting a national record on the first day of a new policy that offers free vaccines for all adults. Officials say all of India’s roughly 950 million adults could be fully vaccinated by the end of the year.

The government is hoping to speed up a vaccination campaign that had a very slow start. Less than 20 percent of people have received at least one dose, and less than 5 percent are fully vaccinated.

The vaccination blitz was the most Covid shots given in a single day in any country besides China. The boost will probably be temporary — currently available supplies suggest that it would be difficult to sustain such a pace over the coming weeks.

Numbers: India is relying on shots manufactured at home, from the Serum Institute and Bharat Biotech, which have promised to deliver 1.3 billion doses from August to the end of the year.

Here are the latest updates and maps of the pandemic.

In other developments:

President Rodrigo Duterte of the Philippines threatened to send anyone who refuses a coronavirus vaccine to jail. The country is struggling with one of Southeast Asia’s worst outbreaks.

Thailand opened the island of Phuket to vaccinated tourists, hoping for an economic boost after the pandemic devastated the tourism industry.

Kenya is facing a surge in infections.

Colombia has surpassed 100,000 recorded Covid-19 deaths, just the 10th country to do so.

The resistance fights back in Myanmar

A shootout in Myanmar’s second-biggest city, Mandalay, was the first time the military and a group of armed civilians known as the People’s Defense Force clashed in a major urban area.

“We have started and declared war,” said Ko Tun Tauk Naing, a spokesman for the People’s Defense Force, affiliated with Myanmar’s ousted elected leadership. Mandalay has been a center of anti-military resistance since the junta staged a coup on Feb. 1.

The shootout began early Tuesday after soldiers raided a building where members of the resistance were sheltering, according to accounts from both sides. The military and the People’s Defense Force both claimed casualties on the opposing side and denied deaths among their forces.

Details: The People’s Defense Force has been receiving military training in border areas controlled by ethnic insurgents. In videos from these remote forests, recruits are seen marching with rifles, their newly made uniforms decorated with the insignia of the People’s Defense Force.

Afghans are forming their own armies

With U.S. troops leaving and the Taliban advancing, the Hazara and other ethnic groups in Afghanistan are raising militias.

A rush to raise fighters and weapons evokes the mujahedeen wars of the 1990s, when rival militias killed thousands of civilians and left sections of Kabul in ruins.

Though the militias could fracture the unsteady government of President Ashraf Ghani, they may be the people’s last choice and eventually serve as the last line of defense. Security force bases and outposts have collapsed amid steady attacks by the Taliban.

Vulnerable groups: Most Hazaras are Shiite Muslims who have the most to fear from a Taliban return to power. The Taliban considers the Hazaras heretics and massacred thousands of them when it governed most of Afghanistan from 1996 to 2001.

THE LATEST NEWS

The U.N. recommended that the Great Barrier Reef be placed on a list of World Heritage sites that are “in danger,” prompting a fierce reaction from the Australian government, which defended its management of one of the country’s top tourist destinations.

North Korea said that if the U.S. expected a quick resumption of nuclear talks, it would face a “disappointment” as President Biden’s envoy visited the region.

Bitcoin fell below $30,000 for the first time since January after a torrid week in which the cryptocurrency has lost nearly 30 percent of its value.

Spain approved pardons for Catalonian separatist leaders, a step toward easing tensions in the region.

Confidential court records obtained by The Times reveal that the pop star Britney Spears had expressed serious opposition to her enforced conservatorship earlier and more often than the public knew. She said that it restricted everything from whom she dated to the color of her kitchen cabinets.

The singer Billie Eilish apologized after a years-old clip of her lip-syncing an anti-Asian slur surfaced on social media.

A Morning Read

Fayçal Ziraoui, a French engineer, caused an uproar when he claimed he had cracked the case of the Zodiac killer in California, who terrorized the San Francisco Bay Area in the 1960s and ’70s. No one had ever solved two ciphers attributed to the killer over a half-century of research, but Ziraoui announced that he had solved the mystery in just two weeks.

ARTS AND IDEAS

Why the Olympics are going forward

The Olympics have always been about numbers. After all, a motto of Citius, Altius, Fortius — Faster, Higher, Stronger — doesn’t mean much without seconds, meters and pounds. How fast? How high? How strong?

For more than a year, though, rising coronavirus case counts and struggling vaccinations have made some hesitant about the Games.

A month before the opening ceremony, our reporters looked at the question through numbers, including this eye-popping one: $15.4 billion. If Tokyo’s new national stadium stands empty on the night of the opening ceremony, that will be $15.4 billion in investment mostly down the drain.

The figure, a record even for famously oversize Olympic budgets, has swelled $3 billion in the past year alone. The reputational damage to Japan, though, on top of the loss of money, would be incalculable.

Another figure: 15,500. Postponing the Olympics forced thousands of athletes to put their lives on hold — to recommit to another 12 months of training, to delay marriage and children.

And there is political peril in Japan: 37 percent is the current favorability rating for Japan’s prime minister, Yoshihide Suga. His political fortunes may be tied too closely to the Games to cancel them.

PLAY, WATCH, EAT

What to Cook

This mango royale uses super-ripe Manila mangoes, with their uniquely creamy texture and deep honey taste.

What to Read

Liang Hong’s “China in One Village” was a literary sensation in China when it published in 2010. Now translated, the book speaks to problems facing not just Chinese villages but also alienated communities around the world.

What to Watch

“In the Heights,” set in a New York neighborhood that is predominantly Afro-Dominican, didn’t cast dark-skinned Latinos in lead roles. A conversation has emerged about colorism in Hollywood.

Now Time to Play

Here’s today’s Mini Crossword, and a clue: Part of a drum kit (five letters).

And here is today’s Spelling Bee.

You can find all our puzzles here.

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

P.S. The Times is introducing gift articles, a way for subscribers to share 10 free article views each month with people who don’t subscribe.

The latest episode of “The Daily” is on the issue of policing in the New York City mayoral race.

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

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