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Cyprus Mail: News Articles in English, 02-09-03

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

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


Tuesday, September 3, 2002

CONTENTS

  • [01] Turks bypass Irish ban through Belfast flights
  • [02] Britain working for a solution by the autumn
  • [03] Credit card debt hits 150 million
  • [04] Parents register children despite Nemitsas protest
  • [05] New vaccination regime for polio
  • [06] Sexually transmitted diseases on the rise
  • [07] Summer's on it's way out
  • [08] Wine industry in crisis after losing 35 per cent of crop to disease and weather

  • [01] Turks bypass Irish ban through Belfast flights

    By Jean Christou

    THE TURKISH Cypriot side has dodged a ban on flying Irish tourists out of Dublin to the north by obtaining a UK licence to fly from Belfast.

    According to reports, Cyprus Turkish Airlines was bringing Irish tourists to the north with packages costing as little as 565 euros (330) for a week during peak season.

    The Turkish Cypriot side launched a huge campaign to attract Irish tourists earlier this year, but plans to fly out of Dublin were blocked by the Irish government.

    Flights by Cyprus Turkish Airlines had been due to begin from Dublin on May 20 and had been preceded by a slick advertising campaign, which was beginning to dent the Cyprus Tourism Organisation's (CTO's) own push for Irish tourists this year.

    But the Irish government said that approval of the flights to the unrecognised 'Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus' would have the country in breach of UN resolutions and would not be allowed.

    Other countries get round the problem of flights to the north by landing first in Turkey, then operating a separate flight to the occupied areas, which is what is being done now through Belfast. The Irish government argued the ultimate destination was the unrecognised north of the island, irrespective of the Turkish stopover.

    A senior official said yesterday there was nothing the Cyprus government could do to stop what was happening, since flights landed first in Turkey and changed flight number or even aircraft to sidestep international aviation regulations concerning direct flights to the 'TRNC'.

    "Taking the tourists to Belfast is their latest tactic but there is nothing we can do about it," the official said.

    Copyright Cyprus Mail 2002

    [02] Britain working for a solution by the autumn

    BRITAIN'S Special Representative for Cyprus Lord David Hannay said yesterday the British government would do everything it could to ensure a positive outcome in the UN-led direct talks for a comprehensive settlement on Cyprus.

    In a statement released before his departure from the island, Lord Hannay said: "We are in a period of interactive consultation and negotiations which will determine whether or not a comprehensive settlement is reached this autumn".

    Commenting on his visit, Hannay, who arrived last Friday, said he had had long and useful talks with the two leaders and members of their negotiating teams and with the UN Secretary-general's Special Adviser on Cyprus Alvaro de Soto.

    He said the British government would do everything it could to ensure that the outcome of this process was positive.

    President Glafcos Clerides and Turkish Cypriot leader Rauf Denktash have been engaged in UN-led direct talks since January this year in an attempt to reach a settlement.

    On Friday, Clerides and Denktash will meet UN Secretary-general Kofi Annan in Paris to find ways to chart the way forward at the apparently deadlocked talks.

    Copyright Cyprus Mail 2002

    [03] Credit card debt hits 150 million

    By Stefanos Evripidou

    CYPRIOTS have run up total credit card debts of 150 million, with figures soaring in the last five years and consumers increasingly borrowing to spend.

    Accounting official Prokopis Ioannides at Bank of Cyprus headquarters said yesterday that credit card debt at the Bank of Cyprus alone had doubled in the last five years, while the number of credit cards in use across the country had more than doubled from 105,000 in 1997 to approximately 250,000 in 2002.

    Cypriots now owed some 150 million on their cards, he said. The outstanding debt accounts for credit card purchases made either last month or in previous months but paid in instalments. It does not include loan repayments, mortgages, hire-purchase schemes, education loans or other forms of borrowing.

    "There are a lot more services on offer now, in terms of loans and credit card facilities. Add to that the fact that the customer has a free hand to choose a card from more than one bank and you can see why no family is left without a credit card. Some even carry five in their wallet," said Ioannides.

    He attributed the increase in credit card expenditure to a general increase in wages, citing wage levels in 1997 as being extremely low. The average household spending per year on credit cards rose from 1,100 in 1997 to 3, 000 last year, he added.

    A recent study in the UK showed that the use of credit and debit card spending as a proportion of total consumer spending had risen from 15 per cent in 1992 to 44 per cent last year, while 49 per cent of all adults in the UK now have a credit card.

    In Cyprus, approximately one in every two adults owns a credit card. The interest rate is not stable, but fluctuates depending on market forces. It currently sits at 10.5 per cent, compared to seven per cent in 2001.

    Credit card facilities allow people to spend money up to an agreed limit and pay it back within 21 days of receiving their bill or through monthly instalments with interest added on to the debt. Those who do not pay the monthly minimum instalment in time are charged a penalty while interest is added on to the amount due.

    Minimum payment in Cyprus is 10 per cent, but countries like the UK are much lower - three per cent - giving the interest on the debt more chance to accrue. UK market observers indicate the dangers of letting credit card spending spiral out of control and the extreme profitable nature of those customers who keep repaying minimum amounts and let the debt build up again.

    "When your limit goes higher, you will spend more, even if you don't have the money. Then you have a problem of collection," said Ioannides. But he maintained that the mechanisms in place for forcing people to pay up were not yet widely used. Banks generally have a relaxed loan policy with little evidence of the requisitioning of homes and property of defaulters as witnessed abroad.

    "Problems are expected when banks start demanding money back from people who used their cards to invest in the stock exchange," he warned.

    Another catalyst for banks to start putting pressure on debtors is the imminent competition from foreign banks after EU accession. "The opening of the EU implies new methods and a new mentality. The question for all businesses is, who will survive?"

    Copyright Cyprus Mail 2002

    [04] Parents register children despite Nemitsas protest

    OVER 40 per cent of parents yesterday enrolled their children at the Eighth Primary School near the Nemitsas foundry, despite a decision by the parents' association last week to keep the school closed indefinitely.

    The Parents' Association claim their children inhale harmful chemicals emitted by the foundry, and warned they would keep the school shut unless the Cabinet came up with a solution to the problem before the beginning of the new school year.

    But despite a decision on Saturday not to send their children to school, over 40 per cent of parents lined up yesterday to enrol their children, leading to the resignation of Parents' Association president Yiannakis Zambis.

    "How can people change their minds on something they agreed on unanimously only the other day?" he said.

    Copyright Cyprus Mail 2002

    [05] New vaccination regime for polio

    By Alexia Saoulli

    THE HEALTH Ministry has approved a new polio vaccination regime, which will start being administered to children as early as October, a Nicosia paediatrician said yesterday. Until now, a more aggressive form of vaccine was used to prevent the highly infectious virus, according to Ministry officials, but because the World Health Organisation (WHO) has declared Cyprus a polio free region, it plans on adopting a milder form of vaccine.

    The WHO defines polio as, "a highly infectious virus that mainly affects children under three years of age. It invades the nervous system and can cause total paralysis in a matter of hours. The virus enters the body through the mouth and multiplies in the intestine. Initial symptoms are fever, fatigue, headache, vomiting, stiffness in the neck and pain in the limbs. One in every 200 infections leads to irreversible paralysis (usually in the legs). Of those paralysed, five to 10 per cent die when their breathing muscles become immobilised. There is no cure for polio, but polio vaccinations can prevent it."

    Cyprus, like most countries worldwide follows a strict polio immunisation programme. Until now, the government only used oral polio vaccines (OPV), said Health Ministry paediatrician Dr. Chrystalla Hadjianastasiou. But it has now decided to introduce inactivated polio vaccines (IPV) into the programme.

    "Cyprus has been declared a polio-free country by WHO. Taking this into account and following WHO guidelines, the government has decided to change the island's polio vaccine system," she said. "But, although there have been no clinical cases of polio for several decades, we decided to continue using OPV and not just IPV because it protects the gastrointestinal system in a way IPV does not."

    This is because OPV is a live virus and produces a local immune response in the lining of the intestines - the primary site for poliovirus multiplication - and limits the virus' multiplication, thus preventing effective infection, as well as immunising children's stools, which could passively infect persons within close contact. IPV on the other hand is an inactivated virus and so confers only very little immunity in the intestinal tract, she said.

    Paediatrician Dr. Alkis Papadouris said that that until now Cypriot children received three doses of OPV at the ages of two, four and six as well as two booster shots at 18-24 months and between four and six years old.

    Now, children will receive a combination of three doses of the more aggressive OPV as well as two injections of IPV, he said.

    "At two and four months children will be injected with IPV, and at six months, 15-20 months and four to six years they will receive doses of OPV," Papadouris told the Cyprus Mail. This regime should start as early as September or October, as soon as local pharmaceutical companies have imported the vaccines, and will be dispensed at hospitals as well as privately, he added.

    Although OPV is safe and effective, in extremely rare cases (approx. 1 in every 2.5 million doses of the vaccine) the live attenuated vaccine virus in OPV may cause infection in itself, said Papadouris. The completely inoffensive use of IPV, and the fact that Cyprus had not displayed any clinical cases of polio in decades, was why the mixed vaccine method was probably being introduced, he said.

    "It's not that OPV is dangerous," he stressed. "It's just that immunisation with IPV carries no risk of vaccine-associated polio paralysis, unlike OPV."

    Copyright Cyprus Mail 2002

    [06] Sexually transmitted diseases on the rise

    By Alexia Saoulli

    SEXUALLY transmitted diseases (STDs) are out of control and on the increase, particularly during the summer months and among younger people, a leading Dermatologist and Venereologist warned yesterday.

    Lack of education, shame and self-treatment were leading factors in their spread and why the Cyprus Dermatology and Venereology Association has decided to hold a national two-day enlightenment campaign in two weeks' time, said its President Dr. Constantinos Demetriou.

    "People's sexual behaviour is freer during the summer, particularly among the young, and they have sexual relations more easily, which in turn increases the likelihood of contracting an STD," he told Cyprus Mail.

    What made things worse was that there were a lot of people out there who did not even know what a venereal disease was, he said.

    "Do you know how many people have asked me what a venereologist is? I even had a young, female schoolteacher ask me once. Families, the education system and society try to protect our young by not informing them about STDs, as if that would be a way of protecting them. This is ridiculous, because instead of protecting them, they are exposed to their dangers and don't even recognise the symptoms when they become infected."

    Gonorrhoea, syphilis, genital warts, chlamydea, herpes, lice, fungus and scabies were just a few of the common STDs in Cyprus, he said.

    "In fact there are a number of STDs that are related to the skin around the genital area, which is why a gynaecologist for instance would not necessarily know what to look out for," said Demetriou. "A woman could go for a cervical smear test and have an STD that her doctor might not notice if it's external and the symptoms are not obvious."

    To make matters worse, a lot of people are embarrassed about going to a specialist and exposing themselves if they suspect they had contracted a sexually transmitted disease, he said. Often, patients end up taking antibiotics at their own initiative to try and get rid of the problem.

    "This kind of self-treatment is obviously ineffective and leads to the spread of the disease when that person comes into contact with his or her sexual partner. If enough people are not taking protective measures and are not treating their existing STDs properly, it's no wonder they are on the increase."

    Feeling ashamed, he said, was understandable, but not an excuse for not receiving treatment or recognising the symptoms.

    "Cyprus is a small place, which only makes things worse because it's easier for diseases to multiply more rapidly. There are a lot more sub-clinical cases here than people think, which is why something has to be done to help prevent their spread by educating the public." He added that although tourism had been partly to blame in the past, this was no longer the case.

    "Cypriots sleep around with tourists as well as with each other nowadays. You cannot tell who has an STD just by looking at them. It is a complete myth if someone says you can."

    Demetriou said this two-day awareness campaign - on September 16 and 17 - would involve free examinations, by appointment, at all dermatology and venereology clinics, as well as the hospital. During those two days, patients will be given brochures informing them of the different types of sexually transmitted diseases and their symptoms.

    "These appointments will not involve treatment. If we find someone has an STD, they will be told what to do to treat it. It will then be up to the person to go privately or register with the hospital."

    Copyright Cyprus Mail 2002

    [07] Summer's on it's way out

    THE SUMMER is finally over as temperatures start to drop and the threat of rain looms, according to the meteorology department.

    Department head Kyriacos Theofilou told the Cyprus Mail this change was due to low pressure from the west, mainly at higher levels of the atmosphere.

    "Weather conditions will become increasingly unstable over the next few days," he said. "As from Wednesday, these climatic changes will become progressively more apparent as temperatures drop and the chance of rain in the mountain regions, as well as inland, will escalate."

    On Thursday and Friday, temperatures will drop to 30 degrees Centigrade, an uncommon phenomenon for this time of the year, when temperatures usually settle at 35, he said. Thunderstorms could also be in store for some districts on Friday, said Theofilou, and he could not rule out the possibility of scattered showers beginning today.

    As far as global weather conditions are concerned and how Cyprus will eventually be affected, Theofilou said: "Global climatic changes are a worldwide fear. I can't say whether or not Cyprus will be affected or to what extent because we only make five-day predictions and do not speculate about the weather several months down the line. Even the European countries which were flooded this summer were not able to forecast the situation until five days before they were swamped with rain."

    Copyright Cyprus Mail 2002

    [08] Wine industry in crisis after losing 35 per cent of crop to disease and weather

    By Soteris Charalambous

    THE SWEET scent of wine still hangs fresh in the air for those attending this year's Limassol festival but the bitter after-taste at the news that at least 35 per cent of this season's crops has been wiped out by disease and bad weather will last longest, as a shortfall in stocks will lead to price rises as producers look to cover increased costs.

    Senior Officer at the Vine Products Commission, Stavros Ioannides, admitted that Paphos had been worst hit, with losses of around 20 million kilos, with another eight million lost in Limassol. The two areas account for 95 per cent of total production on the island.

    Following the bumper crops in 2001, another year of 'over-production' was expected, but was undermined, first by the hailstorms in the early part of the year, then by the heat wave that followed. However, most damaging was the attack of mildew, encouraged by the high humidity, which hit hardest in the Paphos area.

    Because of the rarity of mildew on vines, farmers did not use the appropriate pesticides to prevent it. Ioannides admitted that once a mildew problem has started it is difficult to contain. He said, "Precautions have to be taken beforehand, once it has started only really dry heat can stop it."

    Theodoros Fikardos, head of the Fikardos Winery, said, "Farmers have told me that it has been 40 years since Cyprus was last hit by mildew," adding, "They were not prepared for it." As the Paphos vineyards learnt to their cost, once the disease starts very little if anything can be done to halt it.

    "Last year, one vineyard produced 8,000 kilos, this year they won't even produce one," said Fikardos, "I had to go and see it with my own eyes to believe it".

    Fikardos bemoaned the fact that crop failures had led to considerable price increases. "Last year I was buying Chardonnay grapes for 35 cents per kilo, this year I'm looking at 60 cents."

    Ioannides played down fears expressed by some in the industry saying, "There is no way that 70 per cent of production has been lost," but admitted that, "Vineyards are still being inspected and therefore we are unable to provide exact figures at this moment." He also believed that neither the cost nor the quality of table wine would be affected by the failure of the crops, although bulk wine used for exporting would be limited.

    It is a view not shared by everyone in the industry. Costas Tsiakkas, head of the Tsiakkas Winery, agreed that the cost of some wines would not be affected. "Because of bottling and distribution, we can cut costs here and there and absorb some of the price increases," he said, adding that they would have to remain competitive against foreign importers.

    However, Tsiakkas believes that quality will probably be affected, "There is a possibility that producers will be forced to use some of the cheaper varieties when making their wines." And he added that the prices of local varieties was "definitely going up."

    Last year, 5.6million litres of wine were exported, mainly to Greece. Although the Vine Commission has released no exact figures, they are expected to be significantly lower this year.

    "Exports will definitely be affected," said Tsiakkas. He pointed to the increase in price for Riesling grape, from 40 cents to 60 cents. "It is already highly competitive. With export wine, there is very little margin to play with, it is just production and distribution. It will be very difficult to regain that market," he lamented.

    Copyright Cyprus Mail 2002


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