Global Voices Online
Saturday, October 31, 2009
The past three weeks in Ukraine have been very intense.
First, a child sex abuse scandal broke out on Oct. 13, involving, among others, three members of PM Yulia Tymoshenko's parliament faction (to learn more, read this article at Abdymok and this Kyiv Post editorial).
A week later, on Oct. 19, the presidential campaign officially kicked off, with the election scheduled to take place on Jan. 17, 2010. On Oct. 24, thousands of people from all over Ukraine were brought to Kyiv's Independence Square to cheer for PM Tymoshenko at a huge rally celebrating the official launch of her campaign (for photos, video and thoughts on the event, see this post at Ukrainiana).
On Oct. 26, Ukraine's interior minister Yuri Lutsenko announced that "a network of the extreme Islamic movement al-Takfir wal-Hijra, which is banned by many countries in the world, is spreading in the Crimean territory of Ukraine," and its members were planning to kill Mustafa Jemilev, the leader of the Crimean Tatars.
Finally, on Oct. 30, after a few days of alarming reports on an outbreak of respiratory illness in western Ukraine, the first swine flu-related death was confirmed, and PM Tymoshenko ordered Ukraine's schools closed and public gatherings - including election campaign rallies - banned for at least three weeks; restrictions on non-urgent travel inside Ukraine may also be imposed. According to WSJ.com, Ukraine's president Victor Yushchenko canceled his upcoming campaign rally "where he had been due to announce his election agenda, telling journalists that 11 people had died of H1N1, contradicting a Health Ministry report of only one fatality. An aide and a ministry official said Mr. Yushchenko may have made a mistake."
Below is what Anglophone bloggers are writing about this latest development - the flu outbreak.
At least 61 people are in critical condition. H1N1 has been officially confirmed in seven cases. Schools and kindergartens in nine oblasts have been closed: Ternopil, Ivano-Frankivsk, Lviv, Zakarpattya, Chernivtsi, Rivne, Volyn, Khmelnytsk and Vinnytsya.
“Ukraine has entered a flu epidemic, of the so-called California (swine) type. As of October 29, we have 951 people hospitalized. Unfortunately, we have to note 30 fatalities,” Minister of Healthсare Vasyl Knyazevych said at a briefing Friday.
More recent reports bring the death toll to 37. [...]
The H1N1 virus has finally arrived in Ukraine, and along with it a big ole dose of overreaction and panic. Reports vary on the number of infected and number of deaths attributable to swine flu, but there seems to be clear consensus that those who have died waited too long to seek medical attention. Then again, knowing the medical care available in regional towns and villages, it’s hard to imagine how going to the clinic or hospital would have really helped many of them - sad to say.
Prime Minister Yulia Timoshenko, in an attempt to scare the living bejeezes out of people, oops, I mean protect the population, has extended the autumn school break for another 3 weeks and advised people to avoid public gatherings. Once the announcement hit the wires this afternoon, parents started panicking - the flu immediately forgotten as they tried to figure out what the hell to do about childcare for another 3 weeks. Ex-pats were openly hoping the “quarantine” wouldn’t affect the international schools.
I saw three people wearing masks today, and another half-dozen covering their noses and mouths with scarves. Igor went to several pharmacies to buy echinacea and flu medicine, but no luck. Every place around us was sold out of both. So he bought a dozen lemons and insisted I drink the “family recipe” for good health - a potent concoction of vodka, lemon juice and honey. [...]
LEvko is astonished at the panic in Ukraine and the way over-the-top reaction from the government and politicians over the swine flu epidemic which has hit the country. There is even talk of the president establishing a state of emergency and possibly postponing the presidential elections.
Ukrainian politicians would do better to take a good look at Ukraine's appalling life expectancy figures. Major causes of premature deaths in the country are the smoking of cigarettes and excessive alcohol consumption. A ban on advertising these products and restricting their availability would help save countless lives, but it won't happen because there's too much money being to made from their sale. Much easier to show "decisive leadership" and determined action over the flu epidemic, and scare the the population out of its wits - no doubt increasing the sales of cure-all vodka even more...
p.s. I 'phoned the official goverment swine flu information hot-line today...all I heard was crackling..
Windows to Russia!:
[...] Think maybe this has to do more with control of people at election time than the flu? [...]
Twitter user Victor Kotusenko/roxolanus:
ok, now we are getting this h1n1, it's coming. oxoline ointment in my nose every day, washing my hands often, what else? I guess sleep more)
mild panic in Kyiv today as h1n1 cases officially confirmed
I would call it concern rather than panic in Ukraine, although people are scared by media. but medical services seem to react. we'll c [...]