Cypriot police used teargas on Thursday to subdue asylum-seeking immigrants who were protesting their prolonged detention inside a center, the police said.
They said a police force was sent to the Pournara detention center, about 20 kilometers west of the capital Nicosia, after asylum seekers converged on the fence and started cutting holes in it.
The immigrants threw stones at the police, slightly injuring eight of them, according to the police.
Some of the immigrants attempted to jump over the fencing and brought part of it down.
"At this point the policemen made use of tear gas and the immigrants withdrew from the fence," they said.
Police said order at the detention center was restored, though some of the asylum seekers said they are going on a hunger strike until their demands are being met.
There was another flare-up at the camp on May 27, when authorities banned exit from the camp after an outbreak of psoriasis among the immigrants.
The latest additions to the population of the camp were about 30 people loitering near the buffer zone separating the part of Cyprus controlled by Turkish troops, shortly after crossing over into the Greek Cypriot zones about 10 days ago.
Cypriot authorities said the eastern Mediterranean island is hosting the largest concentration of asylum seekers and immigrants in any EU country, reaching up to 3.8 percent of the local population.
Though undocumented arrivals related mainly to Syrian refugees, the situation changed in 2019, when most of those arriving were economic immigrants from African countries, India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan.
China's aid to countries most in need during the global fight against the COVID-19 pandemic has been outstanding, President of Cyprus' House of Representatives Demetris Syllouris has said.
In an interview with Xinhua on Wednesday, Syllouris said he appreciates the invaluable advice and essential medical supplies that China has donated to his country over the past few months.
Cyprus shares China's vision of building a community with a shared future, and the two countries have proved once again that solidarity, support and cooperation among friendly nations is crucial when faced with such a crisis, he added.
"Safeguarding and restoring global public health (security) calls for coordinated and collective efforts on the international and regional levels. Cyprus stands ready to engage in practical cooperation to this end," he said.
Syllouris said that his "most productive and memorable" visit to China in November 2019 has offered an opportunity to explore new ways of reinforcing cooperation between the two countries, particularly in the fields of tourism, trade, education, technology, innovation and culture.
"As the pandemic is being largely contained, the Cypriot House of Representatives remains committed to further promoting the excellent relations between our two countries," he said.
Cyprus' Council of Ministers has ratified the agreement on EastMed pipeline project, Minister of Energy, Commerce, Industry and Tourism Yiorgos Lakkotrypis said on Thursday.
The agreement will go before the Cypriot parliament for approval, the minister added.
The agreement, signed in January by Greece, Israel and Cyprus, involves a 1,900-km natural gas pipeline to convey the gas reserves of Israel and Cyprus in the eastern Mediterranean to European countries.
The project is also supported by Italy, but the country's government has not yet signed the agreement, as it faces strong opposition by environmental organizations and the residents of the area where the pipeline will pass through.
Lakkotrypis said the agreement includes provisions allowing Italy to sign whenever it is ready.
Provisional estimates put the cost of the project at between 5 billion and 7 billion euros. (1 euro = 1.11 U.S. dollars)
Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades announced on Wednesday a revised package to pump into the economy more than 1.2 billion euros (1.32 billion U.S. dollars), about 6 percent of the country's annual gross domestic product (GDP), to help it out of the coronavirus pandemic crisis.
He added that businesses will also have the opportunity to draw up to 1.7 billion euros in cheap loans.
Speaking after a night session of the Cabinet of Ministers, which approved the package, Anastasiades gave the outline of 10 decisions aimed at helping self-employed people and businesses out of the crisis, provided they will not lay off any of their staff.
He said that details of the package will be announced at a press conference by the finance minister on Thursday. The revised package will replace the one the government was forced to withdraw from parliament.
Anastasiades said that a total of 800 million euros will be allocated to small and medium sized businesses, with a maximum of 250 employees, through the Cyprus Business Fund.
Another 500 million euros will be given in loans to small and medium businesses, which will be 80 percent guaranteed by the European Investment Bank.
Anastasiades' announcements came only a few hours after the European Commission announced the proposal for a 750 billion-euro recovery fund to deal with the consequences of the coronavirus pandemic.
According to the president, Cyprus will participate in the recovery fund. "Cyprus is expected to receive from this fund 300 million to 400 million euros for the needs of the Cypriot economy," he said.
He added that beyond the loans guaranteed by the European Investment Bank, the government will subsidize the interest of loans totaling 1.7 billion euros, which will be obtained by businesses up to Jan. 31, 2021.
Anastasiades elaborated that each one of about 50,000 businesses will receive a free cash grant of between 1,500 euros and 6,000 euros according to the number of people they employed and the period they were inactive during the six-week coronavirus lockdown.
Anastasiades also announced a reduction in the value-added tax (VAT) for restaurants from 9 percent to 5 percent, and a total of 15.5 million euros in subsidies to airliners which will resume flights to and from Cypriot airports as of June 9.
He said that an additional 22 million euros will be allocated for the support of the agricultural sector.
In a bid to revive the construction sector, Anastasiades said people can obtain cheap housing loans of up to 300,000 euros.
Turkish Cypriot community leader Mustafa Akinci made a telephone call to Cyprus' President Nicos Anastasiades to thank him for providing firefighting aircraft to help put out fires in the Turkish-controlled part of the island, government spokesman Kyriakos Kousios said on Monday.
It was the first time during the 46-year long division of Cyprus that Turkish Cypriots in the northern part of the island had accepted such help from the internationally recognized Cypriot government, run by the Greek Cypriot community.
"The Turkish Cypriot leader expressed his thanks to President Anastasiades for sending one helicopter and one water-dropping plane to help in fighting the fires. The President told Akinci that he stands ready to help the Turkish Cypriot community in any way he can," Kousios told state radio.
The fires broke out on Sunday afternoon close to two villages, one on the northern shores of Cyprus and the other about ten kilometers inland.
Akinci was the first Turkish Cypriot community leader to visit the areas of the fires and he called President Anastasiades directly asking for firefighting aircraft to douse the quickly developing fires.
Turkish Cypriots had already started evacuating a university in a pine-forested area as the flames reached its outer perimeter.
The aircraft of the Cypriot government flew fire-fighting sorties alongside three helicopters which had been sent from Turkey.
The fires were contained by dusk but several hot spots burned till Monday morning.
In 2017, the Turkish Cypriot leader refused an offer of help by Anastasiades to put out a large fire in the same area.
Several fires broke out on both sides of a buffer zone dividing Cyprus, as the eastern Mediterranean island is in the hold of a prolonged heatwave which sent temperatures soaring to 43 degrees Celsius in the western part of Cyprus on Sunday, more than 13 degrees above the seasonal average for this time of the year.
The Meteorological service issued an orange warning for high temperatures, saying that 43 degrees are expected again on Tuesday, after 42 degrees were recorded in the capital Nicosia on Monday.
Met Service director Kleanthis Nicolaides told state television that the unusually long and early heat wave will continue until Saturday, when a significant drop in temperature is expected to be followed by summer rain and storms.
The Greek and Turkish Cypriot communities are currently completely isolated from each other, as nine crossing points on the buffer zone have been closed down as part of the measures to contain the spread of COVID-19.
Cypriot top coronavirus scientist advising the government on the COVID-19 pandemic, virology professor Leondios Kostrikis, received unspecified threatening messages, the health ministry said on Wednesday.
Kostrikis, who was making the announcement on coronavirus at 6 p.m. local time every day, was absent from the daily news bulletin on state radio on Wednesday.
Spokeswoman for the Health Ministry Margarita Kyriakou said Kostrikis was at a police station making a statement about the threatening messages he received.
"The health minister termed unacceptable the fact that the people who offer their expertise these difficult days were receiving threatening messages and offensive actions," she added.
The announcement about the daily data on Wednesday was made by Public Health Services official Marios Loizou who said that six more people tested positive for the coronavirus during the past 24 hours, raising the total to 843. Coronavirus deaths stood at 15.
According to Loizou, President Nicos Anastasiades will make a televised address to the people later in the night announcing the first steps back to normality, after a lockdown of more than one month.
He admitted that the road will not be easy, but said people are now more experienced and ready for what is coming up.
Cypriot health professionals fighting the coronavirus on the frontline said on Wednesday that they feel relieved and grateful to China for offering medical supplies to their country.
"We are really grateful and relieved because there are adequate supplies and each health professional has his own protective gear," Sotiris Koumas, president of the state doctors union PASYKI, told Xinhua.
Health professionals on the frontline fighting COVID-19 account for about one fifth of the total confirmed cases in the country, including 53 doctors, 83 nurses and 43 members of hospital auxiliary staff, according to the health authorities.
Koumas's words came as seven tons of medical gear from China were being transferred to frontline hospitals.
"It is very important to have adequate medical gear available so that doctors and other health professional can feel safe, especially when treating confirmed patients on ventilator," Koumas said, adding that the quality of the gear was very good.
Theodoros Petelis, spokesman of the nurses' union PASYNO which had the most confirmed COVID-19 cases among its members, also said the situation has improved since the shipment of Chinese gear started arriving several weeks ago.
"We really cannot thank China enough for these supplies, as we have been facing a big problem because of shortages in protective gear," Petelis said.
"After the arrival of the gear there are adequate supplies to rely on. It is very important to have high protection masks for people coming into contact with confirmed coronavirus cases," Petelis added.
He said it was true not only for the nurses working on the frontline, but also for their families who were constantly exposed to the danger of being infected.
Petelis said that many nurses and doctors had been staying at hotels in the initial period of the coronavirus pandemic so as to reduce the risk for their families.