Still drinking, a little less poor

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The current government has been proudly crusading against drinking, raising alcohol taxes and legal drinking age, banning ads and limiting alcohol sale hours. But has it worked? Not really, a  study by Vilnius University researchers suggests   – alcohol consumption has not changed much, while drinking among under-30-year-olds even increased.

Meanwhile figures released by Statistics Lithuania this week showed that  poverty inched down a little last year, but over half a million people – one fifth of the population – still lived below the risk of poverty line. The figures, mind you, are from before the Covid-19 pandemic which has probably pushed more people into precarity.

Though the coronavirus epidemic remains under control in Lithuania, a relative hike in daily new case reports –  24 new infections   were reported over the weekend and  15 on Monday   – has raised some concern.

Lithuania’s chief epidemiologist has assured it is  not the second wave yet, but a result of relaxed travel rules.

Reacting to an outbreak at a Kaunas transport firm – which may have had much to do with the  living conditions of its Uzbek employees   – the government has tightened  requirements for travelers   coming from outside the EEA and is considering to  reintroduce mandatory facemasks.

Meanwhile a public health specialist has shared some of the more  bizarre anecdotes from her work with the coronavirus.

Charlie Bauman spent two weeks in a hotel room overlooking one of Minsk’s main squares, witnessing  protests against Belarus’ strongman president Lukashenko   and subsequent crackdowns on the protesters.

“I watched as a group of about 17 burly men wearing masks, civilian clothes and baseball hats walked among the demonstrators. My guess is that they were probably OMON, riot police operatives, or KGB,” he writes in his contribution for LRT English.

Meanwhile Lithuania’s foreign minister has said that  Vilnius might introduce sanctions on Belarusian officials   under the Magnitsky Act.

FLOODING HEALTHCARE

Thousands of Lithuanians could not get their prescriptions or buy medication this week because a  rainstorm flooded the country’s healthcare registry servers. The Centre of Registers promised to get the system back up within 24 hours, but two days later,  restoration works had not been completed.

PANDEMIC PAYS

Šarūnas Narbutas, the head of a cancer NGO, has been  accused of making good money   – 300,000 euros – from the government’s scramble for coronavirus tests. Investigators allege that Narbutas engaged in influence peddling while mediating in a 5-million-euro deal for procuring testing reagents. Meanwhile Narbutas  rejects the accusations  , saying he engaged in perfectly legal activities and the money he got was a legitimate pay for “commercial representation”.

BOUNTY FOR FARMERS

President Gitanas Nausėda has returned from the European Council’s marathon negotiations that sealed the deal on the EU’s next seven-year budget and 750-billion-euro recovery fund. The  president hailed   bigger direct  subsidies to Lithuanian farmers   – although there are some  who think they’re undeserving   – and 4.6 billion from the recovery fund. The latter must be spent on greening and digitising the economy, he insisted. The deal is now up for  ratification by the Seimas.

CHINESE HACKS

Lithuanian companies were among the firms from 11 countries that were  hacked by Chinese attackers   trying to steal trade secrets, the US Department of Justice announced this week. The indictment mentioned a Lithuanian video games company from which 38 gigabytes of data were stolen by the hackers.

EDITORS’ PICKS

– Is Eastern Europe destined to become a depopulated hinterland by 2100? A recent study suggests a  massive 55-percent decrease in the population   of the region.

– Was Lithuania justified to ban RT from its airwaves under the EU’s personal sanctions against Russia’s notorious media personality Dmitry Kiselyov?  LRT FACTS investigates.

– Lithuanian photographer Mykolas Juodelė  documents islands of youthful freedom   in Iran’s Strait of Hormuz.

– Take a look at what Lithuanians will be  wearing at the 2021 Olympic Games.

LRT.LT

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