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Cyprus Mail: News Articles in English, 01-01-17

Cyprus Mail: News Articles in English Directory - Previous Article - Next Article

From: The Cyprus Mail at <http://www.cyprus-mail.com/>


CONTENTS

  • [01] Police seek to axe road deaths by five per cent this year
  • [02] New desalination delay could jeopardise water supplies
  • [03] Sluggish market stagnates at 240
  • [04] New AIDS drug should be available later this year
  • [05] Banks and civil servants to strike over health plan
  • [06] Cyprus seeks Greek help over DU fears
  • [07] Matsakis raises alarm over unlicensed hire cars
  • [08] EU warning to Turkish Cypriots

  • [01] Police seek to axe road deaths by five per cent this year

    By Jennie Matthew POLICE are on a mission to cut the death rate on the roads by five per cent this year, after booking 1,073 people for traffic offences in the two weeks since New Year's Day.

    A system of penalty points for bad driving was introduced on January 1, in an effort to implement stricter standards on the nation's lethal driving habits.

    The government-led police crackdown averages at over 76 bookings a day or three an hour.

    Drivers accumulating 12 points for infringements of the traffic code stand to lose their licence for six months.

    Although 2000 saw a marginal decrease in deaths at the wheel - down two from 113 in 1999 to 111, traffic police chief George Voutounos told the Cyprus Mail yesterday he was confident the new point system would help police hit their target of reducing deaths by five per cent.

    The EU road death average is half that of Cyprus, which has a record better than only Greece and Portugal.

    Five have already lost their lives since January 1, 2001 and a sixth, 20- year-old National Guardsman Marios Constantinou, was last night battling for his life after a horrific car crash on Sunday morning.

    Last year saw the first drop in the death tally since 1997, according to government statistics, in a decade that saw annual road death figures rise six times.

    Statistics show the roads are still nearly 10 per cent more deadly than they were in 1990, when 101 lost their lives to accidents.

    The lowest ever death toll was in 1976, when 67 people died. The tally hasn't fallen below triple figures since 1987.

    Four out of the five 2001 deaths happened in Limassol, where Police initiated a 15-day road safety plan this week.

    Excessive speeding, drink driving and ignoring seatbelt regulations are thought to be the main cause of death.

    Road safety was branded a national issue in November when the Council of Ministers made a commitment to setting five-year national targets to tackle the country's abysmal road safety record.

    The plan, requested by President Glafcos Clerides, is not expected to be finished until the summer.

    Voutounos has continually urged drivers to avoid fatalities by following traffic safety regulations and driving carefully.

    On-the-spot 50 fines were introduced in July for a multitude of offences, including failure to wear a seatbelt, going through a red light, not stopping for pedestrians at zebra crossing, talking on a mobile phone while driving and for motorcyclists who fail to wear helmets.

    Copyright Cyprus Mail 2001

    [02] New desalination delay could jeopardise water supplies

    By Jennie Matthew CONSUMERS could face new water cuts, just weeks after the government heralded that water rationing was over for good.

    Agriculture Minister Costas Themistocleous had announced the good news in December, on the assumption that a new desalination plant would come on line in Larnaca this month.

    But it emerged yesterday that the Larnaca plant would not be ready until at least the end of next month, and the issue of rationing will be up for review on February 18, depending on the progress made.

    Themistocleous had told the Cyprus Mail in December that the plant would pump its first water by mid-January and would be fully operational by the end of the month.

    He dismissed a four-week delay as common for multi-million pound projects, saying it was well within the limits of the contract.

    But now facing at least another month's delay, the government attitude was yesterday far more muted.

    The Israeli contractors have now forfeited their bonus, which was conditional on finishing the project in 2000, rather than the original April 2001 finish-date.

    "The contractors are late. We will not pay them extra. We have a schedule and the payments will be reduced the later it is finished," the director of the Water Development Department Christos Markoulis told the Cyprus Mail.

    The cost of the construction work is expected to run to 20 million, but uncertainty still clouds plans to get the plant up and running by the end of February.

    "I don't think the contractors know themselves when they'll finish because when you're at the end of a job you never know how things will turn out," Markoulis added.

    And if the government is forced to reconsider its indefinite suspension of water rationing, which the Minister has described as "third-world", the picture will look even bleaker.

    Markoulis said the matter would now come up for review on February 18 - just 10 days before the latest completion date for the Larnaca plant.

    Technical manager Panayiotis Theodorides of the Nicosia Water Board said yesterday the only condition for reintroducing water rations in the capital would be if the desalination plant, due to pump 52,000 cubic metres of water a day, was still not ready.

    "Up to now, we're in full supply and we hope that'll continue. If the desalination plant is ready, then there won't be any water cuts," he said.

    The Minister and the Nicosia Water Board have promised that the Larnaca plant will end strict summer water rationing in Nicosia.

    Heavy winter rains have more than doubled the amount of dam water in the Southern Conveyor Belt. In January 2000, there were just 9 million cubic metres, compared to 18.5 million today.

    The nationwide dam water total is also up from 28.5 million cubic metres this time last year to 35 million.

    Only Paphos, traditionally the wettest part of the island, has less water than last year.

    Dhekelia - the island's only functioning desalination unit meets just 90 per cent of Nicosia's daily needs in the summer.

    The Water Development Department is reviewing plans to build future desalination units at Paralimni and Limassol.

    Markoulis said proposals from the Electricity Authority (EAC) to power a plant at Moni, more cheaply than earlier tender applications, were also being seriously considered.

    Copyright Cyprus Mail 2001

    [03] Sluggish market stagnates at 240

    By Jean Christou THE ALL-share index continued in no particular direction yesterday hovering around the 240 mark as it has done for the past several sessions.

    Yesterday share prices added an average of 0.4 per cent to close at 241 points on a volume of only 10 million. The FTSE/CySE top 20 only managed a 0.27 per cent rise to 1,028.

    Winners barely outpaced losers with 86 companies on the rise compared to 70 headed downhill and 52, which remained unchanged.

    Although the session opened in negative territory, it passed Monday's close by mid session and seesawed until closing time, gaining little.

    Most sectors picked up with insurance jumping 7.15 per cent due to interest in Atlantic, which leaped eight cents to 55 cents, and Cosmos, which added four cents to close at 40 cents. Atlantic has been recording gains over the past several sessions and it is now up 30 per cent on its price since the beginning of January.

    Tourism also outperformed the general index, up 3.65 per cent after Salamis rose 13 cents to close at 1.10.

    The banking sector was notably behind and failed to match either the general index or the FTSE gains, ending only 0.23 per cent higher.

    Laiki Bank managed to add four cents to 3.00 and was the second most active share of the day. Bank of Cyprus (BoC) dropped two cents to 3.26.

    Severis and Athienitis Financial Services was the most actively traded share, ending the day eight cents richer at 69 cents with a volume of 1.2 million and over 1.9 million shares changing hands.

    "The market is completely directionless at the moment and can't seem to make ups its mind which way to go," said one analyst. "Right now it's more of a sideways movement. Investors seem to be waiting for a pointer before taking any sort of plunge."

    Copyright Cyprus Mail 2001

    [04] New AIDS drug should be available later this year

    By a Staff Reporter A NEW HIV treatment launched in the UK yesterday could be in Cyprus later in the year if it passes the customary six-month "wait and see" test.

    The director of the Larnaca AIDS Clinic, Dr Yiannis Demetriades, said yesterday that, if all went to plan, he was confident the government would approve the new drug for Cyprus.

    "To be honest, the government spends a lot of money on AIDS treatment. Since 1996, they have never said no to financing new medication," Demetriades told the Cyprus Mail.

    Trizivir is the first treatment to combine three established HIV therapies - zidovudine, lamivudine and abacavir - all of which are available separately in Cyprus.

    Manufactured by pharmaceutical giant GlaxoSmithKline, Trizivir costs just over 580 a month in Britain -- the same price as taking the three drugs individually.

    Demetriades told the Cyprus Mail in December that patients often lapsed on their treatment because they failed to keep up with the complicated regime of pills.

    Trizivir was developed specifically to reduce the number of people who give up on complicated pill intakes, which can rise to up to 15 pills a day in some combination treatments. Trizivir is dispensed in one pill, twice a day.

    HIV medication as prescribed is essential if therapy can continue to be effective. Unlike other HIV regimes, patients on Trizivir can eat and drink what they like without any complications.

    The medication has already been approved in Mexico, Switzerland, Chile, Ghana, Malawi and the United States.

    It is expected to reach other European countries in the coming months. But a six-month assessment of a drug's passage in the rest of Europe is obligatory before the government gives the green light to any new treatment.

    Although there has been a trend for HIV patients to seek treatment abroad, Demetriades said increasing numbers of sufferers were returning home.

    The clinic currently treats 120 patients and two babies for HIV and AIDS.

    In Cyprus, 354 people have been diagnosed HIV positive since 1986. The Health Ministry estimates the number of carriers as between 300 and 500. Of those diagnosed, 118 have developed full-blown AIDS and 51 have died.

    Copyright Cyprus Mail 2001

    [05] Banks and civil servants to strike over health plan

    By a Staff Reporter BANKS are set to close two hours early - at 10.30 am - today and government offices are to be out of action between 10 am and midday tomorrow, as bank employees and civil servants take turns to protest against government plans to introduce a national health plan.

    Both the bank workers, represented by the ETYK union, and the civil servants, represented by the PASYDY union, want to be exempted from contributing to the new state plan, as they have their own union health schemes.

    Health Minister Frixos Savvides has ruled out allowing any groups to opt out of the national health plan.

    Both ETYK and PASYDY have threatened to escalate strike action if the government does not back down.

    After years of delays, the government hopes to put the national health plan into action later this year. The new plan will cover all basic medical needs in exchange for varying contributions amounting to up to five per cent of an employee's salary.

    Copyright Cyprus Mail 2001

    [06] Cyprus seeks Greek help over DU fears

    By a Staff Reporter CYPRUS is appealing to Greece for help in its investigation to establish whether Turkish occupation forces are stockpiling depleted uranium (DU) ammunition in northern Cyprus.

    "The General Commands of Cyprus and Greece are in close co-operation to meet the risks from missiles with depleted uranium and have asked for technical and economic assistance from Greece," Defence Minister Socratis Hasikos said in Athens yesterday after a meeting with his Greek counterpart, Akis Tsohatzopoulos.

    He said Cyprus had neither the access nor the opportunity to carry out research to establish whether Turkish troops had DU shells stored in the occupied area. He argued it was easy for Turkey to transfer such weapons to Cyprus and added: "We discussed ways to take action as a precaution to face this danger."

    He added that if the countries producing such weapons set out safety rules on their use, it was obvious they acknowledge they carried certain risks.

    Government Spokesman Michalis Papapetrou confirmed yesterday that every effort had been made to determine whether DU was present in Cyprus. "I want to assure the Cypriot public that everything humanely possible is being done by the government, but no panic or scare mongering has any place in this issue."

    The Greek armed forces on Monday denied reports that their contingent in Cyprus might be equipped with DU ammunition.

    Copyright Cyprus Mail 2001

    [07] Matsakis raises alarm over unlicensed hire cars

    By Melina Demetriou ANYONE hiring a car has good chance of finding it is unlicensed, and thus not covered by insurance, DIKO deputy Marios Matsakis warned yesterday.

    Matsakis presented pictures and other evidence to the House Communications Committee yesterday, revealing that out of 30 hire cars randomly picked in Paphos and Limassol, only half of them were properly licensed.

    The Licensing Authority, a government body, must license all cars offered for hire. No insurance plan can cover a hired car without the special licence.

    Asked by deputies for his response to Matsakis' claim, Communications Minister Averoff Neophytou said: "I am well aware of the illegalities occurring in the area of car hire. I told you months ago that the only way to tackle the problem was by liberalising the sector. Right now, companies that need, say, 100 cars to be competitive and are licensed to have only 50, end up cheating. When the field is fully liberalised, they will not need state licences to operate."

    But Committee chairman Nicos Pittokopitis accused Neophytou of putting up with offenders for years to have more excuses to introduce liberalisation.

    Neophytou promised to investigate the issue raised by Matsakis.

    "We will find the offenders and we will punish them. We will be ruthless," he said.

    The minister told the Committee that he would soon table a proposal before them calling for the liberalisation of the car hiring sector.

    Copyright Cyprus Mail 2001

    [08] EU warning to Turkish Cypriots

    By Jean Christou ANY HOPES the Turkish Cypriot side may have of joining the EU separately or as part of Turkey are an illusion and will not happen, EU Enlargement Commissioner Gunter Verheugen said in Brussels yesterday.

    In a speech taking stock of enlargement issues over the past year and what needs to be done since December's Nice summit, Verheugen singled out his concern over Cyprus.

    "I am worried about developments over Cyprus," Verheugen said. "Recent statements by Turkey's Prime Minister Bulent Ecevit and Rauf Denktash. suggest they are hardening their positions."

    The Turkish Cypriot side, with the backing of Ankara, has threatened not to attend the next round of UN-sponsored proximity talks in Geneva on January 26 unless their equal status is officially recognised.

    The international community insists there are no plans to alter the format under which the talks have been taking place since December 1999.

    During his visit to Cyprus last week, Britain's special envoy Sir David Hannay pointed out that under Turkey's partnership agreement with the EU, Ankara was expected to support the efforts of UN Secretary-general Kofi Annan. Whether Ankara met that obligation would become clear in the coming weeks, he added.

    Verheugen said yesterday the Commission was doing everything in its power, "working hand in hand" with the UN Secretary-general, to support efforts to solve the conflict.

    He also warned that the time factor was becoming acute and appealed to all concerned to work towards a solution.

    "There are not going to be any separate accession negotiations with northern Cyprus and it is absolutely illusory to think that it might join the EU as part of Turkey," Verheugen said.

    The National Council yesterday confirmed the Greek Cypriot side's commitment to the continuation of the proximity talks and called on the UN Secretary-General to set a date.

    Speaking to reporters after the nearly three hour-long meeting, Government Spokesman Michalis Papapetrou insisted the Greek Cypriot side would not accept any effort to appease the Turkish Cypriot leader.

    "The National Council has started to examine the situation and there was an exchange of views on current developments," Papapetrou said.

    "The government, along with the National Council, has invited the UN Secretary-general to set a date for the continuation of the talks."

    Papapetrou said President Clerides had "made it abundantly clear. that we will not tolerate any effort to appease Mr Denktash."

    "The procedure and the rules of the game have not been set out by us and each player cannot change them to suit himself, at any stage of this effort, " Papapetrou added.

    Copyright Cyprus Mail 2001


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