Daily briefing

10 things you need to know today: July 6, 2021

Demolition lets crews search Florida condo debris faster, the U.K. announces lifting of most COVID restrictions, and more

1

Demolition allows crews to search Surfside condo debris faster 

Search crews on Monday discovered four more bodies in the rubble of the Florida condominium tower that collapsed last week. The death toll has now risen to 28. Work resumed as soon as demolition crews on Sunday took down the part of the Champlain Towers South condominium that remained standing after the building partially collapsed on June 24. Crews reportedly were able to get to parts of the debris pile they couldn't reach before the remaining structure was demolished, suggesting they could find more of the 117 still missing more quickly now that the entire structure is down. Rescuers are searching areas that "happened to be where a lot of master bedroom areas were," Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) said. "Likely a lot of people who were sleeping at that time, unfortunately."

2

U.K. government lifts most coronavirus restrictions

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced on Monday that England would lift most of its COVID-19 prevention restrictions on July 19, switching from a public health strategy based on "government legal diktat" to one relying on "personal responsibility." Johnson said the decision was possible thanks to the success of the nation's vaccination rollout. Eighty-five percent of adults have received at least one dose of a coronavirus vaccine. Still, infections are surging, driven by the spread of the highly infectious Delta variant, and a final decision on the plan to lift such restrictions as mask requirements and limits on public gatherings will not be made until July 12. "This pandemic is far from over," Johnson said. "We must reconcile ourselves sadly to more deaths from COVID."

3

Tropical Storm Elsa hits Cuba and aims for Florida

Tropical Storm Elsa made landfall in Cuba on Monday afternoon, hitting the island with high winds and heavy rains as it pushed north toward Florida. In the United States, authorities issued tropical storm warnings for the Florida Keys, which felt the storm's outer rain bands on Monday. Officials also declared a state of emergency for parts of the state forecasters say will likely be affected by the storm, which is expected to make landfall north of Tampa midweek. Elsa was blamed for three deaths in the Caribbean, where it briefly strengthened into a Category 1 storm before weakening as it strafed the southern coast of Hispaniola, the island that includes the Dominican Republic and Haiti.

4

Hong Kong police arrest 9 over alleged bomb plot

Hong Kong police on Tuesday announced the arrests of nine people suspected of plotting to plant bombs across the semiautonomous Chinese financial hub. Six of the people arrested are secondary school students. Police said the suspects were trying to make the explosive triacetone triperoxide (TATP) in a homemade lab, and planned to bomb courts, tunnels, and railways, as well as plant explosives in street trash cans "to maximize damage caused to the society." Authorities said the suspects, five men and four women aged 15 to 39, planned to leave Hong Kong after the sabotage. The arrests came two years after a wave of pro-democracy protests, and a year after Beijing imposed a harsh new security law.

5

Report: Thousands got fake coronavirus vaccines in India

Thousands of people in India received fake coronavirus vaccines, CNN reported Monday, citing authorities in the country. Doctors and medical workers are among the suspects who have been arrested for alleged involvement in a broad scheme to sell bogus vaccines. At least 12 fake vaccination drives were conducted around Mumbai, a financial hub in the country's western Maharashtra state, said Vishal Thakur, a high-ranking official of the Mumbai police department. "They were using saline water and injecting it," Thakur said. "Every fake vaccination camp that they held, they were doing this." An estimated 2,500 people got the salt-water shots, paying organizers up to $28,000 in all for the injections. India was devastated by a second wave of infections from April to early June.

6

Tech giants warn Hong Kong over data-protection law

Facebook, Twitter, and Google warned Hong Kong they would stop serving the Asian financial hub if its government went ahead with data-protection laws that would hold them responsible for doxing, or malicious sharing of people's information online, The Wall Street Journal reported Monday. The Singapore-based Asia Internet Coalition, an industry group that includes the internet giants, told Hong Kong's government in a previously unreported June 25 letter that the planned rules could expose their employees to criminal charges based on what users post, and the only way to avoid them was "to refrain from investing and offering services in Hong Kong." The Hong Kong Constitutional and Mainland Affairs Bureau proposed the measures in May to prevent doxing, which became common during a wave of 2019 pro-democracy protests.

7

Pacific Northwest heat wave death toll reached nearly 100 

The death toll from the late June heat wave in the Pacific Northwest reached nearly 100, USA Today reported Monday, citing Oregon's medical examiner office. Temperatures soared above 100 degrees Fahrenheit in counties across the state from June 25 to June 28. Portland posted record-high temperatures for three straight days, with its record now standing at 116 degrees. Gilliam and Marion counties recorded the state's highest temperature, 117 degrees, the National Weather Service said. "This is a harbinger of things to come," Oregon Gov. Kate Brown said Sunday on CBS' Face the Nation. "We have been working to prepare for climate change in this state for a number of years."

8

Global stocks rise to records as business activity expands in Europe

Global stocks closed at or near record highs on Monday as investors reacted to spiking business activity in Europe and a promising U.S. jobs report. The gains were kept in check by concerns about the spread of the highly transmissible Delta variant of the coronavirus. The STOXX index of 600 leading European companies opened lower but closed up by 0.3 percent after data showed euro zone business activity expanded in June at the fastest clip in 15 years. Britain's FTSE gained 0.5 percent ahead of U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson's announcement that his government would end mask requirements and restrictions on gatherings in England starting July 19 as the COVID-19 picture improved.

9

Israel: Pfizer vaccine effectiveness dropped due to Delta variant

Israel on Monday reported a decline in the effectiveness of the COVID-19 vaccine developed by Pfizer and its German partner, BioNTech. Since June 6, the vaccine's effectiveness in preventing infections and symptomatic illness fell to 64 percent, although it remained 93 percent effective in preventing serious illness, the country's Health Ministry said. The drop came as the highly infectious Delta variant spread and Israel ended social-distancing restrictions. A May report published by the ministry said the vaccine was more than 95 percent effective against infection, hospitalization, and severe illness. Pfizer has said other research found that the vaccine produced antibodies capable of neutralizing all variants, including Delta, for extended periods, although it worked better against some variants than others.

10

Superman, Goonies director Richard Donner dies at 91

Film director and producer Richard Donner, whose credits included Superman, The Goonies, and the buddy cop series Lethal Weapon, died Monday, according to his wife, the producer Lauren Schuler Donner, and his business manager. He was 91. The cause of death was not immediately reported. Donner's version of Superman, which starred Christopher Reeve as the Man of Steel, had a budget of about $55 million and grossed $300 million-plus globally at the box office. "Dick had such a powerful command of his movies, and was so gifted across so many genres," director Steven Spielberg said in a statement. "Being in his circle was akin to hanging out with your favorite coach, smartest professor, fiercest motivator, most endearing friend, staunchest ally, and — of course — the greatest Goonie of all. He was all kid. All heart. All the time."

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