Your Wednesday Briefing

A fourth wave of virus infections threatens to undermine Europe’s fragile economic recovery as governments reimpose increasingly stringent health restriction that could reduce foot traffic in shopping centers, discourage travel and thin crowds in restaurants, bars and ski resorts.

“We are expecting a bumpy winter season,” said Stefan Kooths, a research director of the Kiel Institute for the World Economy in Germany. “The pandemic now seems to be affecting the economy more negatively than we originally thought.”

The tough lockdowns that swept through Europe during the early months of the pandemic last year ended up shrinking economic output by nearly 15 percent. Vaccines and falling infection rates have helped countries recoup some of those losses, but patchy vaccine coverage across the continent could put those gains at risk.

Case study: Before they were ordered shut, stores in Austria were already suffering a 25 percent loss in revenue for November compared with the same period in 2019, the country’s retail trade association said.

A global drive to attract foreigners with skills, especially those that fall between physical labor and a physics Ph.D., is underway as the pandemic heads into its third year. Many wealthy nations hope to lure those young workers with fast-track visas and promises of permanent residency.

Covid’s disruptions have exposed demographic imbalances — rapidly aging rich nations produce too few new workers, while countries with a surplus of young people often don’t have enough work for them all. New approaches to that mismatch could influence the worldwide debate over immigration, especially as European governments differ on how to handle new waves of asylum seekers.

“We’re hearing the same thing from everywhere,” said Jean-Christophe Dumont, the head of international migration research for the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. “If you want to attract new workers, you need to offer them attractive conditions.”

Details: In Germany, a new Immigration Act offers accelerated work visas to qualified professionals and six months to visit and find a job. Canada plans to give residency to 1.2 million new immigrants by 2023. And Israel recently finalized a deal to bring health care workers from Nepal.

Context: The pandemic has led to several major changes in global mobility. It slowed labor migration. It created more competition for “digital nomads” as more than 30 nations created programs to attract mobile technology workers. And it led to a general easing of the rules on work for foreigners already in the country.

The U.S., Britain, China, India, Japan and Korea will release tens of millions of barrels of crude oil from their stockpiles to combat soaring global prices.

Oil traders appeared underwhelmed by the move. The U.S. will tap into 50 million barrels from its emergency supply of 620 million barrels, coming in below traders’ expectations of around 100 barrels. Oil prices rose after the announcement, although administration officials said prices could fall in coming weeks.

The announcement comes after OPEC rebuffed President Biden’s call to increase production. The OPEC Plus nations may reconsider at their meeting next week after such a coordinated release.

Context: Oil-producing nations cut output as demand fell early in the pandemic. In the U.S., the oil rig count was down by nearly 70 percent in the summer of 2020.

Celebrity reminiscing, a leaky toilet, a 15-minute call to his girlfriend: Newly released records show the disgraced financier Jeffrey Epstein living a mundane existence in jail in the days before his suicide, while spinning deceptions until the very end.

The 64th annual Grammy Awards will be held in Los Angeles in January, and the list of nominees already offers surprises, snubs and scores. Read our music critics’ takes.

Jon Batiste, a composer who is also the musical director on “The Late Show With Stephen Colbert,” scored the most nominations — 11. Justin Bieber, Doja Cat and H.E.R. followed with eight apiece, while the pop stars Billie Eilish and Olivia Rodrigo earned seven. “It’s a reminder that the presumed and actual audiences for the awards show and the network both skew old,” the music critic Jon Caramanica writes. “Perhaps only in this echo chamber, Batiste qualifies as a pop star.”

Another twist: Abba scored its first Grammy nomination, for the group’s comeback single “I Still Have Faith in You.” “That’s obviously one of the Grammys’ better-late-than-never nominations,” the music critic Jon Pareles writes.

The ceremony has also overhauled its nomination process — for years, many artists including Jay-Z and the Weeknd have slammed the Grammys for routinely passing over Black artists in top categories. “The effect seems less dramatic than many expected,” Ben Sisario writes. “This year, the distribution of Grammy nods has followed a familiar pattern of mixing pop superstars with heroes of the old guard.”

The full list of nominees is here.

That’s it for today’s briefing. See you tomorrow. — Natasha

P.S. German Lopez is joining the team for The Morning, our sister newsletter, from Vox.

The latest episode of “The Daily” is about the U.S. figuring out how to fix highway projects that damaged Black neighborhoods.

You can reach Natasha and the team at

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