Restaurants and bars in Paphos will struggle to survive without tourism as up to 60 per cent of venues may be forced to close, officials said on Wednesday.
“Paphos is reliant on tourism and many people in Paphos are employed in this sector. Our largest markets are the UK and Russia, and as they are not yet able to travel here for at least the next two months due to restrictions, it’s a really difficult situation,” president of the federation of restaurant/leisure owners Fitos Thrassivoulou said.
If projections are correct, that only around 20-30 per cent of the number of visitors to the island will arrive this year compared to last, it’s common sense that up to 60 per cent of food industry venues will have to close, or change their business, he said.
In addition, unless banks, municipalities and the government help affected businesses (with electricity bills, water, rubbish and taxes) it may not be possible for many to open at all, let alone remain open and trade next year.
There are currently around 1,000 restaurants, bars and cafés in the Paphos district, he noted, with the number of cafés increasing by around 300 or so in the last two years. This has caused a saturation of the market, he added.
“Most families don’t have the cash to go out now anyway as they have only a percentage of their wage. It’s mostly teenagers going out and they don’t spend much money.”
He added that the seasonality of the island is also a huge hindrance to the industry.
“The only hope is that August, September and October would see a good number of tourists arriving and this would give some oxygen to the industry, that would be a nice surprise.”
Proving Thrassyvoulou’s point, Aphrodite’s Rock Brewery in Paphos reopened its doors to the public this week. The ten-strong work force is used to handling large numbers of visitors and welcoming busloads of tourists on a daily basis.
“Last year, in the summer, we had around 800 customers a week, this week we will be lucky if we get 150,” managing director Jean Ginn said.
Israel as one of the countries that will see the flight ban lifted as of June 9 as part of a two-step time frame, which Ginn hopes will mean at least a marginal increase in numbers visiting the brewery.
She added that along with many other businesses in the food industry, the coming months will be a struggle to survive. Many venues are not yet open, and some won’t open at all.
“It’s the uncertainty,” another eatery owner said.” I can’t afford to open, it’s too much of a gamble. I really don’t know what to do in the future”.
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Cyprus’ permanent representative to the UN Andreas Mavroyiannis told the CyBC on Tuesday that the deliberations for the renewal of the Unficyp mandate had begun. This is the only reason the Cyprus problem gets into the news and the only movement, if you could call it that, nowadays.
The renewal of the mandate is welcomed by the Cyprus government and the Greek Cypriot political parties because it ensures the continuation of the status quo for another six months. This has become an end in itself for our parties, reinforcing their complacency and allowing them to carry on serving us with their defiant rhetoric that leads nowhere.
If the mandate could be renewed for three years instead of every six months there is no doubt the government would campaign for it and would have the full support of the political parties. The reality is that they are all very comfortable and content with the status quo, and having Unficyp standing between us and the occupation army. Probably the majority of Greek Cypriots would also back such an arrangement because it has offered them security for 46 years.
We would be deluding ourselves if we actually believed we could carry on securing a renewal of the mandate indefinitely. Each time seems to become a little more difficult than the previous one and there have already been voices on the UN Security Council questioning the continued presence of Unficyp at a time when UN resources are stretched and the United States has been calling for a reduction in peace operation costs.
It is no coincidence that whenever the discussion of the renewal of the Unficyp mandate approaches our government seeks some movement in the peace process. Last September President Anastasiades was in New York asking the UNSG for a resumption of talks and Antonio Guterres called a meeting in Berlin with Mustafa Akinci that produced another document of platitudes, which was enough to secure another renewal in January.
Now it seems Mavroyiannis has made contact with Guterres who, he said, expressed his will to become involved in the Cyprus problem. Any developments, however, would be after October, said Mavroyiannis, as the elections in the north would have to be held first. The predicted developments after October could be an argument for the renewal of the mandate for another six months, but it is no indication that there would actually be any development.
After all, the only objective of the Cyprus government is to keep the peacekeeping force on the island for another six months.
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SpaceX, billionaire entrepreneur Elon Musk’s private rocket company, was forced by foul weather to scrub a planned launch on Wednesday of two Americans into orbit from Florida, a mission that would mark the first spaceflight of NASA astronauts from U.S. soil in nine years.
The countdown was halted less than 17 minutes before the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket was due to lift off from the Kennedy Space Center, propelling Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken on a 19-hour ride aboard the company’s newly designed Crew Dragon capsule to the International Space Station.
The next launch window is set for Saturday afternoon, when SpaceX will make a second attempt to send the astronauts into orbit.
The scrubbed launch came on a day with off-and-on rain over Florida, and the National Weather Service had issued a tornado warning for the area. Flight operations managers were monitoring a number of ominous weather conditions, including the threat of lightning, even as crews began loading the rocket with fuel.
By then, Hurley, 53, and Behnken, 49, were already strapped into their Crew Dragon seats, after having made their way up a 265-foot-tall (80-meters) tower to the access bridge that leads to the capsule atop the Falcon 9 rocket.
A live NASA television broadcast livestreamed on the internet showed the two men sitting and appearing calm, side by side in their white flight suits, as the launch postponement was announced.
President Donald Trump had already flown aboard Air Force One to Florida and arrived at Cape Canaveral to observe the launch. Musk, Vice President Mike Pence and NASA chief Jim Bridenstine also were there for the planned launch.
The astronauts were to have blasted off from the same launch pad used in 2011 by NASA’s final space shuttle flight, which was piloted by Hurley. Since then, NASA astronauts have had to hitch rides into orbit aboard Russia’s Soyuz spacecraft.
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Around 340 children are in need of fostering, a foster families association said on Wednesday.
According to the president of Love Nest foster family association, Dimos Thomas about 500 children are under the care of social welfare services after being removed from violent family environments or from families that can no longer care for them.
Of those, about 140 are unaccompanied minors from overseas. About 200 are currently in children’s homes and other hosting institutions.
“We want all children, no matter their background to grow up in families,” Thomas said.
A total of 160 to 170 children have already been placed in foster families under the supervision of the welfare service.
“There is a great need for foster families,” Thomas said. “Children growing up in group homes are missing the love and warmth of a family.”
In recent years more cases have been reported for neglect or violence in families, resulting in an increase in the number of children under the care of the state.
“It is a problem that unfortunately is growing,” Thomas said, adding that it is difficult to find foster families because locals are not aware of the process.
Any adult can apply to become a foster parent, through the association or directly through the welfare services.
Applicants are evaluated as to their financial capacity and living conditions.
Foster parents receive an allowance to cover the living costs of the children they are fostering and are able to proceed to adoption if they wish to do so.
Lufthansa’s $10 billion government bailout was thrown into doubt on Wednesday after the German airline’s supervisory board refused to accept the conditions attached by Brussels.
The board, which had been expected to sign off on the aid, instead refused EU requirements that Lufthansa permanently give up take-off and landing slots at Frankfurt and Munich airports, where it commands a two-thirds market share.
The bailout plan nevertheless remains “the only viable alternative” to insolvency, Lufthansa said, and negotiations will continue over EU demands that would “lead to a weakening” of its airport hubs as well as its ability to repay loans.
The European Commission had “no comment on the specific case”, a spokesperson said.
Terms discussed with Brussels included the forfeiture of 72 slots used by 12 of 300 jets based at the two airports, a source familiar with the matter said. But whereas Lufthansa wanted to reclaim the slots after repaying aid, the Commission sought permanent concessions, the person said.
Airlines including Air France-KLM and the main U.S. carriers have all sought government aid to ride out the coronavirus crisis, which has brought air travel to a near-halt.
The bailout deal announced on Monday would see the German government take a 20% stake in Lufthansa in return for a 6 billion euro injection of new capital, most of it non-voting, combined with 3 billion in state-backed loans.
The Lufthansa group employs around 138,000 people, according to its website.
Economy Minister Peter Altmaier said after the board announcement he still expected Brussels to approve the package.
“It’s not only in Germany’s interests but also in the European Union’s interests to avoid a sell-off of strategic interests in the industrial sector as a result of this pandemic,” Altmaier added.
Some rival airlines disagree.
Low-cost carrier Ryanair’s Chief Executive Michael O’Leary vowed on Tuesday to challenge a bailout package he said would “massively distort competition” in the German market for the next five years.
“It is deeply ironic that the German government, which lectures all other EU countries about respecting EU rules, has no difficulty breaking the State Aid rules when it comes to Lufthansa,” O’Leary said in a Ryanair statement.
But the German Cockpit Association, a pilots’ union, also warned that giving up slots to budget rivals would threaten European jobs and labour standards.
“Some airlines in the low-cost segment have large financial reserves because they have disregarded the rights of employees for years and … passed on their business risk to their employees,” the group said.
“It cannot be the goal of German and European rescue policy to save companies from insolvency with billions in cash and at the same time put them at a severe disadvantage.”
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Due to the restrictive measures adopted against coronavirus, total sales of petroleum products in April reached 56,443 tonnes, a 55.1 per cent decrease compared to April 2019.
According to the Statistical Service, sales of diesel fell by 70.3 per cent and petrol by 50 per cent, while supplies of airplane fuel dropped 95.6 per cent, due to the flights restrictions all over the world.
Total petroleum stocks at the end of April 2020 were up 41.5 per cent compared to the end of March.
Compared to March 2020, total sales of petroleum products in April 2020 recorded a decrease of 46.6 per cent.
A drop was recorded in the supply of all fuels, except for agricultural oil.
From January to April 2020, total sales of petroleum products were down 11.6 per cent compared to the corresponding period in 2019.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson urged Britain on Wednesday to move on from what he described as a “very, very frustrating episode” when his closest adviser provoked outrage and scorn for taking a long-distance drive during the coronavirus lockdown.
Dominic Cummings has refused to quit after it was revealed that he had travelled 400 km (250 miles) from London to northern England in March with his four-year-old son and his wife, who was sick at the time, to be close to relatives.
Johnson has repeatedly backed his adviser, and on Wednesday in front of lawmakers, several of whom directly challenged the prime minister, he again voiced his support for a man who, he said, had spent a lengthy amount of time explaining himself.
That strategy appears to be a risky one. Opinion polls show that faith in Johnson has tumbled since the story broke on Friday in The Mirror and The Guardian newspapers, and some of his Conservative lawmakers have called for Cummings to go.
“It’s been a very, very frustrating episode and I understand why people … have been so concerned, because this country is going through a horrendously difficult time,” Johnson told a parliamentary committee.
“(If) what we need to do is to focus on getting the message right … then I think what we need to do really is to move on.”
It was a message his ministers pressed earlier on Wednesday, trying to dampen down the row over Cummings, a divisive figure who is seen by both allies and opponents as Johnson’s most important and influential strategist.
POLITICS BEFORE PUBLIC HEALTH?
But Yvette Cooper, an opposition Labour lawmaker, said the prime minister was more interested in “trying to protect Dominic Cummings” than giving straight answers on the advice for parents during the lockdown.
“The problem is, that means you are putting your political concerns ahead of clear public health messages,” she said.
Johnson, who suggested she was trying to score political points, announced that a new test and trace programme to better monitor the spread of the virus in the population would launch in England on Thursday.
The programme, which will mass test and identify the contacts of anyone who has been close to a positive case of COVID-19, is seen as crucial to helping the government ease the most stringent lockdown in peacetime history.
Britain is poised to start relaxing measures on non-essential retail shops, schools and possibly to allow more social contact soon for millions of people who have been mostly stuck at home for weeks.
By reopening more sectors of the economy, the government hopes to work towards overcoming the coronavirus crisis, and Johnson said he wanted to announce new details in June or early July on how to spur a recovery.
But the row over Cummings has prompted some to lose faith in the government’s strategy, with many people still unable to understand how a senior official had not broken the rules by driving north for help with childcare when the government repeatedly told people to “stay home” and “save lives”.
Britain has the second highest death toll from the virus globally, with the confirmed tally rising by 412 to 37,460 on Wednesday.
Cummings said he had acted reasonably and not broken the lockdown rules – a position supported by Johnson and senior ministers.
YouGov found 71% of people believed Cummings had broken lockdown rules and 59% thought he should resign.
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Lifting the Premier League trophy without fans there to see it would be a “pretty strange” experience, Liverpool’s Jordan Henderson has said.
Liverpool need just six points from their remaining nine games to win the league for the first time in 30 years but there is still no clear date on when the season will resume after it was suspended in March due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Fans will not be allowed to attend games in line with the government’s protocols for the return of elite sport.
“Of course it would feel different because if you win any trophy and receive it without any fans there, it would be pretty strange,” club captain Henderson told BBC Radio.
“It’s still not over, we still have work to do. We want to finish as strongly as we can to make sure it is a full season.
“After that, whether we win it or whatever, then receiving the trophy and the fans not being there… you just have to deal with it when it comes.”
Henderson has also spoken of his pride at how Premier League footballers have come together to contribute towards the NHS during the coronavirus pandemic.
As the country dealt with the awful situation presented by the global health crisis, top-flight footballers came in for criticism which intensified last month when Health Secretary Matt Hancock called on players to do more.
By then news was starting to filter out about a joint fund that Premier League captains were working on and Henderson has been widely credited with leading the #PlayersTogether scheme that was announced on April 8.
The initiative is directing funds to the NHS Charities Together group for distribution to good causes working to provide support to NHS staff and patients.
Speaking for the first time about the venture, Henderson told BBC Radio 5 Live: “We wanted to make sure it was the right thing we were doing and we wanted to do it properly.
“It did take a bit of time but ultimately we’ve come together and done an amazing thing and raised a lot of money for charities that need it and support the people who need it, which has been massive for them.
“It’s been a real positive thing during this lockdown that we’ve all come together to try to help as best we can in this awful time.
“All players were amazing, all captains were amazing, all representatives from each team were amazing. Even players that aren’t captains within the squads of different teams were also amazing.
“It was a real collective effort and everybody wanted to do something – and to do it together made it just even more powerful and helped the people that needed it the most in terms of the NHS key workers and volunteers as well.
“We made sure the funds were going in the right place, which we were more than happy with.”
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A fire broke out outside the Pournara reception centre in Kokkimotrimithia at around 8pm on Wednesday.
The fire department said the blaze was brought under control about 45 minutes later.
The reasons behind the incident are still being investigated by both the police and the fire department.
“I can confirm the situation is now completely under control and no one was injured,” fire department spokesperson Andreas Kettis told the Cyprus Mail.
“The cause of the fire is still unknown, we need time to figure out whether the incident took place for natural reasons or someone is responsible for it.”
A resident of the camp said the fire started outside it, in the parking area.
“It started very small, but it spread very quickly and it got very near the camp, around ten metres from my tent,” he said.
“Before the firemen came, some of the residents at the camp also started putting it out with fire extinguishers, luckily no one was hurt.”
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President Nicos Anastasiades on Wednesday evening pledged €430m in direct government assistance, and the unlocking of up to €1.7bn in new credit facilities designed to jumpstart an economy crippled by the two-month-long coronavirus closures.
“I am confident that with today’s generous government support, and your own diligence and tenacity, we shall overcome this crisis,” Anastasiades said during a live televised address to the nation.
“It goes without saying,” he added, “that restarting the economy is intertwined with the evolution of the epidemic’s trajectory.”
The president went over a raft of upcoming fiscal and lending facilities comprising the second stimulus package lasting until the end of the year.
Some €800m in liquidity would be made available through the Cyprus Entrepreneurship Fund – a joint venture of the European Investment Bank and the Republic of Cyprus – to finance small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs).
Eligible for this will be SMEs with a maximum of 250 staff per business.
Likewise in partnership with the European Investment Bank, the government will increase by €500m the existing credit line to SMEs and mid-caps. Eligible are companies registered and operating in Cyprus and employing up to 3,000 staff.
Earlier, the cabinet also green-lit Cyprus’ participation in the Pan-European Guarantee Fund, set up to tackle the economic fallout from the Covid-19 pandemic.
Anastasiades said Cyprus is expected to tap between €300m and €400m from this fund, the beneficiaries of which are SMEs and mid-caps damaged by the effects of the pandemic. The loans in question will be guaranteed by the Pan-European Guarantee Fund up to 80 per cent. To be eligible, businesses must not have axed any jobs during the restrictions.
Moreover, the government will roll out an interest rate subsidy scheme covering businesses as well as self-employed people who are cash-strapped due to the pandemic. It relates to loans granted, or to be granted, from March 1 to December 1, 2020.
Valid for four years, the scheme breaks down as follows: during the first two years the interest rate will be subsidised to up to three percentage points; for the third and fourth years, the subsidy will be at two percentage points for SMEs, and 1.5 percentage points for large corporates.
Another support measure relates to subsidising rents for a fixed duration and with a ceiling on the amount of home loans. These are loans granted, or to be granted, between March 1 to December 31 and will not exceed €300,000 per case.
In addition, Anastasiades pledged direct grants to small businesses and the self-employed, covering a part of rental costs and operating costs, carrying a €100m price tag for the state.
It applies to around 50,000 small businesses that employ up to 50 staff, which partially or wholly suspended their operations and which enrolled in the special assistance programmes of the labour ministry for the period April 13 to May 12.
The one-time grant works as follows: for employing up to one person, €1,250; from two to five people, €3,000; six to nine people, €4,000; 10 to 15 people, €6,000.
The government will also be rolling out an incentives schemes worth €6.3m for the tourism and aviation sectors, bringing the total allocated amount by year’s end to €15.7m.
Hotels and catering operations will benefit from a reduction on VAT from 9 per cent to 5 per cent, valid from July 1, 2020 to January 10, 2021.
And the government has earmarked €22m in grants to support the agricultural sector.
Meantime the cabinet has instructed all government departments to immediately launch tenders for development projects. The new parliament building is exempt.
More details on the stimulus measures are to be provided by the finance minister during a press conference scheduled for Thursday. The cabinet is also due to meet on Thursday.
Returning to the virus itself, Anastasiades invoked teamwork: “I knew that however correct, stringent or necessary the [restrictive] measures were in dealing with the threat, they would never have been enough were it not for your will, contribution and sacrifices.
“Today, I feel proud of you all because you have once again demonstrated a sense of humanity, solidarity and patriotism.”
Evidently referring to some catering businesses, the president did not omit to harangue “the minority which… in their drive to make a profit, are taking advantage of young people’s impulsiveness and are disregarding the hygiene protocols.”
He re-issued a warning to those flouting social distancing rules.
“I regret to say this, but I have no choice but to be strict and clear: the state shall not tolerate and shall not allow those who disregard health and social responsibility rules to persist with behaviours that jeopardise us all.”
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Under the slogan ‘We are coming to Paphos, this summer we are all going to Paphos’, a campaign to promote the district for domestic tourism will get underway this week, according to the local tourism board.
“The Paphos regional board of tourism is investing even more in domestic tourism, with the support of the ministry of tourism, and will start this week the implementation of a specific campaign that will last until August 7,” it announced on Wednesday.
The island-wide promotion includes an intensive campaign on social media.
Paphos expects to remain as the first choice for holidays for the Cypriot travellers and permanent residents this year.
The board said hotels, tourist and catering businesses, municipal beaches and other services are being feverishly prepared for tourism to resume.
“The destination and its operation in the coming days will give the opportunity to thousands of domestic visitors to venture out, visit Paphos in the summer and to live unique, carefree moments,” it said.
The district is expected to have sufficient beds and to offer a wide range of accommodation of all categories at very competitive prices.
“The Destination of Paphos District invites the residents of Cyprus to visit the beautiful countryside, the Akamas, the stunning coastline of Neo Chorio, Latsi, Argaka, Pomos, experience wine-tasting moments and wine villages, to stay in Paphos and swim in the crystal clear seas and enjoy every welcoming corner of the Paphos district,” the board said.
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A vibrant splash of colour, a touch of green plants, bold graphics and a trendy velvet couch catch the eye when entering the Aceplaymore store that has just opened in Nicosia. The only brand in Cyprus selling and manufacturing beach paddles, the team at Aceplaymore (APM) has upgraded their four-year-old start-up from solely functioning online to a walk-in shop that oozes summer vibes.
A “little slice of islander life, right in the heart of the city”, is how the APM guys describe it. Standing between multicoloured surfboards with beach tunes playing in the background and staring up at the 4-metre-tall wall of beach paddles, I would agree that the store is a taste of summer in the centre of Nicosia.
Founder Stefanos Ierodiakonou greeted me at the door and eagerly began showing me around the shop, telling me about their worldwide delivery service and the outdoor island lifestyle that is a fundamental pillar of their brand.
My eyes drifted around the shop as he spoke: caps, beach towels, t-shirts, tennis ball-shaped coasters; the store is filled with random, pleasant surprises. A mini sombrero hat sits on top of a box of balls, framed signs with quirky quotes and big red phrase on the wall that reads ‘made for screwballs’.
“What are screwballs?” A name they made up to call their friends, clients and their community. Lady Gaga has her ‘monsters’, Aceplaymore has its screwballs.
Stefanos’ tanned skin and flip flops indicate he really is a “beach bum,” although he described the rest of his team as “creative, like-minded weirdos who found each other through a mutual love of all things beach, and an intrinsic hatred of working 9-5 office jobs”.
In love with the islander life and the beach paddle game, they turned a passion into a job, a brand and a lifestyle. “That’s just how we grew up,” they said, “spending long summers on the beach playing beach paddles, are some of our fondest childhood memories. We wanted to bring that into our adult life, to create a community of existing and new players who love the game, and also promote and introduce the beach paddle game on a more global level where it is not as popular.”
This playful beach activity has no net or rules and is probably something most people have tried out once in their life when handed a wooden racket. Or more correctly, a wooden beach paddle, as it is properly referred to.
Dozens of beach paddles sit proudly in the store, each with a different design and colour. Stefanos picked one up and began explaining its three layers. Though the Aceplaymore workspace and warehouse are both in Cyprus, the beach paddles are created by their partner in Athens who specialises in handcrafted paddles. “Unfortunately, even though we wanted to produce everything locally, we found too many limitations, especially for a small start-up, so we had to look out of Cyprus for production partnerships.”
Everything has a touch of Cyprus in it. Even the team’s first workspace was a make-shift office at Stefanos’ beach house. “It meant we could spend long days on the beach testing our products and then head back to the house (which doubled as a warehouse) to discuss ideas, our brand, and the future we imagined for it.” The brand is simply an extension of themselves, an invitation to other beach bums and beach paddle newbies.
“We are beach babies,” the team said, “we live on a beautiful island lapped by turquoise waters, it is our constant inspiration. Our love for island life has really been the thing that has shaped and defined us most as a brand, and probably is a thing that our clients are really drawn to about us because it’s a shared feeling.”
Their love for Cyprus is obvious even from a brief chat or just by looking at the photos that decorate the store from a road-trip around the whole coastline of Cyprus. The opening of the store could have come at the perfect time as we ease out of lockdown.
With summer travel plans up in the air, local tourism is bound to be popular this year as many are likely to stay home for the holidays and with hotels and tourism brands focusing on local travellers.
The community that Aceplaymore is creating not only wants to offer a wide range of paddles that suit a wide range of different players’ needs but also to come together with other adventurous souls to enjoy beach life, sport and nature. As such, their annual beach clean-ups have grown very popular.
“We feel that it’s imperative to protect the (limited and vulnerable) nature that we have on our island, so we began organising yearly beach clean-ups to help tackle the trash that some people feel is acceptable to leave behind on the beach. Our numbers of volunteers have grown, and so has the enthusiasm for the project. We have also recently released Aceplaymore awareness initiative products, full profits of the sales of these items go into funding more clean-ups.”
To the beach paddle and beach tennis fanatics, Aceplaymore is a known brand as they’ve held numerous pop-up events over the years and have been sponsors at others. To the beach paddle shy, they are a pleasant new discovery, found at just the right season when summer’s just beginning and Cypriot beaches are the highlight of it.
The store, near China Spice on Androkleous street, aims to be more just a store. “We wanted to create a space that was a clear extension of our brand, relaxed and comfortable that our friends/clients and the beach paddle community could come to, meet new people and make new friends. The fact that it’s also our store is just a bonus to that,” Stefanos said.
What would he want people to feel when entering the store? “Happy, like it’s their home,” the team replied.
I can’t say it felt like home but its cool, fresh atmosphere, colourful décor and Stefanos’ friendly, laid-back manner definitely brought a sense of being by the sea. All while being in the heart of Nicosia.
Aceplaymorem Androkelous 9 street, Nicosia. Monday, Tuesday, Thursday: 10.30am -6.30pm. Friday: 10.30am-4pm. Tel: 96-317587. www.aceplaymore.com
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Three people were arrested on Wednesday after police discovered boxes containing 72kg of cannabis in a storage locker in Limassol.
Police conducted a raid on the locker following a tip that four packages arriving from Greece at Limassol port contained drugs.
During the raid, police arrested two Larnaca residents, 31 and 36, for picking up the packages containing the drugs.
Following further investigation, police discovered a third person, at 27-year-old from Limassol, guided the two Larnaca suspects who were to deliver the packages to him.
The Limassol man was also arrested.
Police said they also received information about a fourth person involved in the case and are searching for him.
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There has been a sharp increase in sham marriages over the past two years, Interior Minister Nikos Nouris said on Wednesday.
Speaking after a meeting of the House legal affairs committee, Nouris said that in 2018 and 2019 about 3,600 suspicious marriages held in Cyprus were referred to the police for further investigation.
“Furthermore, around 1,600 sham marriages were officiated in the same town hall, which raised our suspicions even more,” Nouris said.
He added that the cases referred to the police have also been forwarded to the immigration office but “due to the weak spots in the existing legislation and the sheer volume of the issue, it was impossible to examine and eventually cancel any of those weddings.”
The procedure occurring in sham marriages usually involves EU citizens, often with limited financial resources, falling prey to specialised gangs.
In the past, countries such as Romania and Portugal have complained that their citizens are being exploited by networks who are using them in sham marriages with third-country nationals.
Once the sham marriage takes place, the third-country citizens then register as spouses of a European citizen and both parties go their separate way.
According to police reports released in 2019, the EU nationals who take part in the scam are paid between €500 and €1000, while the networks usually pocket thousands of euros.
“It’s very difficult for us to track down the individuals responsible for organising the sham marriages,” said Nouris.
“Also, after they get married, often the third-country nationals leave Cyprus to go to other countries in Europe. Since our law stipulates that in order to declare a marriage invalid both parties need to be officially interviewed by the authorities, we have no legal grounds to do so.”
Non-performing loans (NPLs) in the Cypriot banking system declined to €8.97 billion at the end of 2019, with the NPL rate amounting to 27.9 per cent of total loans.
According to data released by the Central Bank of Cyprus (CBC) NPLs in end-December 2019 marked a reduction of €561 million compared with end-September 2019 or 5.9 per cent.
Furthermore, the coverage ratio rose slightly to 53.5 per cent from 52.4 per cent in the end of September.
Moreover, since the end of 2014, NPLs in the Cyprus banking system marked a reduction of €18.4 billion or 67.2 per cent, according to CBC data.
According to the CBC, total restructured loans at end-December 2019 amounted to €5.45 billion, of which €4 billion continue to be classified as non-performing, partly due to the definition of the European Banking Authority.
A net reduction in restructured facilities of €418 million has been exhibited at the end of December 2019 compared with end-September 2019.
“The downward trend in NPFs exhibited in the fourth quarter of 2019 can be attributed mainly to the rise in loan write-offs, which take place in the context of restructurings and usually concern amounts that already form part of credit institutions’ loan loss provisions,” the CBC said, adding that loan repayments, including debt-to-asset swaps, as well as positive migrations of loans which have been successfully restructured and reclassified as performing (cured) at the end of the probation period contributed to the decrease in NPFs.
“The analysis of additional data collected by the CBC with respect to fixed-term loans shows that there has been an improvement in the factors contributing to the reduction of NPLs,” the CBC said.
Total loans in the end of 2019 amounted to €32.12 marking a reduction of €924 million or 2.8 per cent compared with end-September 2019.
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Tottenham Hotspur manager Jose Mourinho said it was painful to watch countries resume their top-flight seasons while English soccer remains suspended due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The German Bundesliga restarted on May 16, becoming the first major soccer league to get back undwerway, while leagues in Portugal and Spain are also nearing a return.
Professional soccer in England has been suspended since mid-March but clubs on Wednesday voted unanimously to return to contact training as the second step in the Premier League’s ‘Project Restart’, which hopes for a return to play in June.
“It’s hard to see other countries playing football and we don’t do it,” Mourinho told Sky Sports.
“I always try to make our players love the Christmas period where, instead of being sad, we were always happy to give people what they love in a period where nobody else is playing football.
“At the moment, we’re feeling a bit opposite… We want to play but of course we are respectful of the authorities, we trust what they and the Premier League say, we just have to follow the decision.”
The extended break has given Spurs’ injured players, such as Harry Kane, Son Heung-min, Moussa Sissoko, and Steven Bergwijn time to recover and Mourinho said they should all be available when the season resumes.
“I cannot say at this moment that they are ready to play… but all of them are not injured anymore. They are training, it is what it is and it has a lot of limitations… but Harry, Son, Bergwijn, Sissoko, all of them are fine,” he added.
“… I think in a couple of weeks they will be able to play. Of course not to their maximum potential, I don’t think anyone can at this moment, but they will be ready to go.”
Tottenham were in eighth place, four points off the European qualifying spots, when the season was suspended.
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There was no discrimination against children with disabilities, Education Minister Prodromos Prodromou said on Wednesday and called on parents of children with special needs to collaborate with doctors assigned by the ministry to find the appropriate solutions so their children return to schools.
In statements after the House education committee, Prodromou said in no case does the ministry seek to or actually discriminate against any children.
Schools reopened on May 21, while late the previous day the ministry issued an announcement saying children with special needs, or those in special units in schools who need an escort would not be able to return. A special committee including doctors will examine each case and assess if they should return to school and what measures should be implemented.
According to Prodromou, 769 children who were attending school with an escort returned on Monday without the need to be first examined by the committee.
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