Digging officials

While Covid-19 takes all the headlines, deals are made and laws are passed, with hardly anyone noticing. Many will change our lives for years or forever. UnderCovid keeps track of these stories. Daily.



Citing economic reasons, the Hungarian government changed regulations to allow the creation of so-called special economic zones. According to the new rules, these zones will stop paying the local business tax, which will deprive local authorities of an essential source of income. For example, the government already designated a plant run by the South Korean electronics manufacturer Samsung in Göd, a town close to Budapest, as the first “special economic zone.” Critics argue that the measure is meant to cripple the areas where local authorities are run by opposition parties. For example, Göd is led by a mayor coming from Momentum, a young, opposition party. Göd’s mayor Csaba Balogh was outraged by the new regulations.


Through a recent decree, Hungaryʼs government has expanded the scope for investment for the Hungarian Development Bank (MFB).


The outstanding stock of forint retail government securities increased by HUF 29.6bn to nearly HUF 9.104tn in Q1 2020. The growth was driven by subscriptions of the Hungarian Government Security Plusz bonds.


The total modern industrial space in the greater Budapest area stood at 2,28 m2 at the end of Q1 2020. That was an increase by some 40,000 m2 compared to the previous quarter, according to data released by the Budapest Research Forum, an umbrella organization of realtors operating in Hungary.

United Kingdom

In an effort to prevent a deadly infection, Britain will impose severe restrictions on olive trees and lavender bushes. Xylella fastidiosa, a bacterium, has destroyed whole olive plantations in parts of Italy, being also identified in France and Spain.


Ad spending in the British print media is expected to decline by 30% this year, according to forecasts from Enders Analysis, a research company. Last January, the researchers had predicted an 8% fall. With people locked down during the Covid-19 crisis, less sales of copies and dwindling ad spend, the British print media industry expects a massive downfall. Already some 4,000 newspaper retailers folded in Britain. Some 40% to 50% of what is lost in ad spending during the current crisis is not going to be recouped after the virus is gone, Enders’ experts say.


Russian jets have been found to be involved in several flybys with U.S. and NATO aircraft over the Mediterranean and Baltic seas in the past few days.


The Moscow City Court has reduced to 18 months a four-year jail sentence imposed on the activist Konstantin Kotov for “multiple breaches” of  Russia’s protest law. Kotov, 35, is a computer programmer who was arrested last year after repeated participation in summer protests over Moscow’s parliamentary  election.


Almost one in five Russians believe that LGBT people should be “eliminated,” according to a newly released survey from Levada Center, a pollster. That is slightly less people than in 2015 when 21% wanted to “eliminate” LGBT people, but still worrisome.


Russia adopted legislation last Friday that allows dual Russian citizenship for foreigners. The Russian authorities expect up to 10 million people, mostly from Russian-speaking populations in the former Soviet republics, to seek Russian passports.


The ruling coalition junior partner, the party Agreement started talks with opposition Civic Platform (PO) party to delay the presidential election scheduled for the 10 May 2020. The ruling party, PiS, wants to carry out the election as planned, but solely through postal voting. Agreement wants the election to be postponed to 2022.


Estonian Prime Minister Juri Ratas last Friday submitted a proposal to President Kersti Kaljulaid to sack the Minister of Foreign Trade and IT Kaimar Karu. The Estonian Conservative People’s Party (EKRE), in government, apparently offered the job to another person.


The Slovak government is moving ahead with legislation that would allow its citizens to take a foreign citizenship without losing their Slovak one. At the moment, Slovak citizens who adopt another citizenship have to give up their Slovak one.


The Latvian citizens who will come to work in Lithuania with the Lithuanian government’s special permission will have to spend 14 days in self-isolation.

Bosnia & Herzegovina

The government of one of Bosnia & Herzegovina’s two entities, the Federation, has recently appointed a working group to draft legislation that would regulate the rights of same-sex couples. The issue has stirred fierce, sometimes violent, opposition from conservatives in Bosnia & Herzegovina.


The decline in the Latvian economy this year could exceed 10%, according to forecasts made by the Governor of the Bank of Latvia Mārtiņš Kazāks.


Kosovo’s President Hashim Thac wants to form a new government out of the current parliamentary parties. He opposes fresh elections. The Vetevendosje party is fighting him and wants new elections once the pandemic is over.


Telcos in Ukraine are reportedly increasing use of cellphone data to track people’s movement during the coronavirus lockdown. The government uses mobile operators to get data on how well Ukrainian citizens comply with the quarantine rules.

United States

President Donald Trump plans to sign an executive order that would temporarily suspend immigration into the U.S., he tweeted last night. He argues that this would protect American jobs in the coronavirus context.
*Thousands of Americans continue to sign onto a class action lawsuit in the American state of Florida. The lawsuit seeks compensation in the range of billions of dollars from the Chinese Government for damages inflicted by the Covid-19 virus. In a separate class action, five businesses in Las Vegas seek billions of dollars in damages from the Chinese government.


North Korea

Because of “excessive smoking, obesity and overwork,” North Korean leader Kim Jong Un received a cardiovascular system procedure last week. This week, he is in “grave danger,” according to intelligence received by the United States. Kim missed the celebration of his grandfather’s birthday on 15 April 2020.

Hong Kong

The Secretary for Constitutional and Mainland Affairs Patrick Nip in Hong Kong is to be replaced by Director of Immigration Erick Tsang.


Hin Leong, an oil-trading company run by the Singapore tycoon Lim Oon Kuin, hid more than US$ 800m in losses as it speculated in oil futures.


Airline Virgin Australia, which already furloughed 80% of its 10,000 staff, is nearing collapse. It had more than A$ 5bn (US$ 3.2bn) in debt at the end of 2019. Deloitte was selected to take control of the company. It will try to find new investors to inject capital as a way to save the business.


NBC News, an American owned broadcaster, sold its stake in Euronews, a France-based television channel that is majority owned by Naguib Sawiris, an Egyptian telecom investor. NBC plans to focus instead on a new global television channel, NBC Sky World News. NBC paid some US$ 30m for its 25% stake in Euronews three years ago. It sold the shares to a company owned by Sawiris who now controls 88% in the channel. The reminder is owned by public broadcasters and local authorities.


A painting by Vincent Van Gogh was stolen from Singer Laren Museum, a Dutch museum that was closed as part of the coronavirus lockdown. The painting, “Parish Garden in Nuenen, Spring,” is the only theft case at this museum.


The number of confirmed executions globally decreased for the fourth consecutive year to 657, according to Amnesty International, an activist group. A record high number was registered in Saudi Arabia (184). Iraq also doubled the number of executions last year to a total of 100. Data for China are missing, but Amnesty International believes executions there were in the thousands.

Photo: HIPA

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