Your Tuesday Briefing

Boris Johnson imposes broad new restrictions.

By Victoria Shannon

Good morning.

We’re covering drastic new restrictions in England and Scotland, high-profile elections in the U.S. and the post-pandemic future of office space.

Britain re-enters sweeping lockdown

Prime Minister Boris Johnson imposed a strict new national lockdown that will remain until at least the middle of February, as Britain’s race to vaccinate its population risked being overtaken by a fast-spreading variant of the coronavirus.

Schools and colleges in England will close their doors and shift to remote learning. Mr. Johnson appealed to Britons to stay home for all but a few necessary purposes, including essential work and buying food and medicine.

The new, highly transmissible variant of the virus has taken hold in London and southeastern England, prompting an alarming spike in case numbers, to close to 60,000 a day, and putting hospitals under acute pressure.

Scotland first: The first announcement of a full-scale lockdown came from Scotland, where the first minister, Nicola Sturgeon, has consistently moved further and faster to try to tame the pandemic.

In other virus developments:

The U.S. distribution of vaccines has descended into turmoil, with federal, state and local officials blaming each other for botched logistics and funding shortfalls. In New York City, roughly 110,000 people out of more than eight million have received the first of two doses necessary to help prevent serious cases of the disease.

Thailand, which had been among the most successful countries in containing the coronavirus, imposed wide-ranging new restrictions as cases hit a daily high, and in Japan, officials considered a state of emergency for Tokyo, which also set a daily case record.

Here are the latest updates and maps of the pandemic.

Two critical days in U.S. politics

A top election official in the state of Georgia issued an emotional appeal to residents to ignore President Trump’s disinformation about voter fraud and cast their ballots today in two races that will determine control of the Senate.

The president held a rally in Georgia for the Republican incumbents, Senators David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler, last night. The trip came a day after the stunning revelation that Mr. Trump asked Georgia’s Republican secretary of state to find 11,000-plus votes in order to overturn the presidential outcome in the state’s election.

Mr. Trump repeated his assertion that he was the victim of “a rigged election.” The Democrats were trying to steal the White House, he told the crowd, so they could not afford to let them steal the Senate.

President-elect Joe Biden, also campaigning in Georgia, made no direct mention of Mr. Trump’s call with the state’s top election official but did obliquely criticize the president’s strongman tactics, warning that politicians cannot “seize power.”

Ms. Loeffler, meanwhile, announced plans to vote against the Electoral College certification process scheduled for Wednesday in Congress, joining a dozen Republican senators in moving to overturn electors for Mr. Biden.

European reaction: Mr. Trump’s extraordinary conversation with Georgia officials has shaken many Europeans, even those who had grown used to his tactics. They worry that the Trump effect will last for years, damaging trust in American predictability and reliability.

If you have 6 minutes, this is worth it

What is the future of offices, when workers have a choice?

The coronavirus will not kill the office. But the remote work habits that the pandemic brought about are helping to accelerate the destabilization of the traditional office market in cities around the world.

With a new creative class that may be able to live-work anywhere it wants, some office spaces in central employment districts may become housing, and some housing in residential areas may become work spaces. Above, Facebook expanded its office space in Manhattan last year.

Here’s what else is happening

Qatar boycott: Saudi Arabia agreed to reopen its borders and airspace to Qatar after boycotting it since 2017. A broader agreement to end Qatar’s isolation from its Arab neighbors, including the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt, could be announced today.

Auto merger: Shareholders of Fiat Chrysler and PSA, the parent of Peugeot, voted to join forces in an effort to cope with a changing industry and plummeting sales. The new company, to be called Stellantis, will be the world’s fourth-largest carmaker, employ 400,000 people and include the Jeep, Ram Trucks, Alfa Romeo and Maserati brands.

Julian Assange: A British judge ruled that the WikiLeaks founder could not be extradited to the U.S. to face trial on charges of violating the Espionage Act, saying he would be at extreme risk of suicide. The decision in the high-profile case grants Mr. Assange a major victory.

Norway landslide: Rescuers have recovered the bodies of seven people killed in a landslide last week in the village of Ask, about 30 miles northeast of Oslo. Three people remained missing. Officials said the landslide was related to clay terrain that can collapse into a liquid state.

Snapshot: In Castellina in Chianti, the foreigners who usually would be sipping espressos on the local bar’s terrace or grocery shopping at the farmers’ market are nowhere to be seen. The sharp drop in visitors since the start of the pandemic pressed the Italian village of 2,800 people to cling to the essentials: the pharmacy, the food store and agriculture.

South Korean birthrate: For the first time on record, the number of newborns in South Korea last year fell below the number of deaths, underlining a long-term crisis in one of world’s most important economies.

What we’re reading: This South China Morning Post article about young employees rebelling against China’s demanding work culture. Young people are saying they won’t give their all to low-paying jobs (they call it “touching fish”), and the trend hints at a deeper dissatisfaction with China’s response to the pandemic.

Now, a break from the news

Cook: Silky leeks, earthy parsnips and a few spices make up this simple, creamy soup.

Watch: “Spiral,” France’s fierce answer to “The Wire” and “Law & Order,” begins its final season on MHz Choice. With the end in sight, our reviewer writes that “the key is lower, less sensational, more twilight.”

Read: “Red Comet,” a new Sylvia Plath biography by Heather Clark, and “Snowdrift,” a Swedish crime novel from Helene Tursten, are on our editors’ Nine New Books to Read list.

At Home has many more ideas on what to read, cook, watch and do while staying safe at home.

And now for the Back Story on …

The year in email

Steve Kenny, The Times’s senior editor for nights, keeps the newsroom informed of what happened while many of us were sleeping. Five nights a week, Mr. Kenny sends an email to editors and reporters all over the world that recaps the news and prepares others for the day ahead. Here are a few of his “late notes” that tell the story of 2020.

THURSDAY, JAN. 9, 2020. 2:08 A.M.

Sui-Lee Wee and Donald McNeil gave us the breaking news that researchers in China have identified a new virus that is behind a mysterious pneumonialike illness that has caused a panic in the central Chinese region. “There’s no evidence that the virus, a coronavirus, is readily spread by humans, and it has not been tied to any deaths,” they write. “But health officials in China and internationally are watching it carefully.”


Within a five-minute period tonight, President Trump wrapped up his coronavirus speech, Tom Hanks announced on Instagram that he and his wife, Rita Wilson, had tested positive, and the N.B.A. said it was suspending its season until further notice.

TUESDAY, JUNE 23. 12:40 A.M.

The White House trade adviser, Peter Navarro, set off alarms late tonight when he told Fox News that the trade deal with China was “over.” He took it back pretty quickly — or said, rather, that his remarks had been taken “wildly out of context” — but not before stock markets in Asia began to dive.

TUESDAY, OCT. 6. 1:58 A.M.

We got off to a hectic start, with Trump’s return to the White House and his dramatic maskless salute on the balcony overlooking the South Lawn. Then he released a video recorded at the White House in which he told Americans that Covid-19 was nothing to fear.

That’s it for this briefing. See you next time.

— Victoria

Thank you
To Theodore Kim and Jahaan Singh for the break from the news. You can reach the team at [email protected]

• We’re listening to “The Daily.” Our latest episode is about the Georgia runoff elections.
• Here’s our Mini Crossword, and a clue: Pond scum (five letters). You can find all of our puzzles here.
• Jeffrey Henson Scales spoke to ABC News about The Times’s Year in Photos.

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