Ukraine closes schools after reports of swine flu deaths

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Ukraine reported its first deaths from the H1N1 swine flu virus on Friday, prompting the government to close schools, ban public gatherings throughout the country, and take other actions in an effort to curb the spread of the disease.

Four people were confirmed dead from the disease as of Friday, and another seven people have been confirmed as infected with it, the ProUA news agency quoted National Security and Defense Council Secretary Raisa Bohatyryova as saying. This contradicts other reports, which said only one person died.

30 more people in the western part of the country have died from an outbreak of pneumonia and flu since the middle of this month, but it has not been confirmed to be the swine flu.

Ukrainian prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko ordered the closure of schools and cinemas for three weeks. A ban on public gatherings was implemented as well, in some of the toughest measures taken in Europe to stop the virus' spread. "Special regimes" will also be introduced, to limit residents from moving from one part of the country to the other for non-urgent purposes.

"All educational institutions without exception [...] will be put on a three-week holiday period," Tymoshenko said. "Apart from this, we will cancel all mass meetings [...] for three weeks. We will introduce a special system to stop unnecessary travel from one region to another."

"We can say today that Ukraine has entered into the zone of the swine flu epidemic," said Ukrainian Health Minister Vassyl Kniazevich.