Tonight president Yushchenko made a stutteringly delivered, alarmist, outrageous address to the nation in which he blames PM Tymoshenko, parliamentary leaders, and leaders of the opposition for inactivity when they were supposedly already aware of the flu epidemic taking a grip of the Western parts of the country.
Without providing any medical evidence, he claims that in Ukraine new hybrid strains of flu are beginning to materialise.
In particular, he blames his main political rivals in the presidential campaign of organising large rallies in Kyiv on 24th October, by which time 10 victims had died of flu-like illnesses in the town of Ternopil. [Whether these deaths were due to swine flu, or the seasonal flu, whether the victims had underlying medical conditions, whether they were children or adults, all quite significant in swine flu outbreaks, he does not say.]
Quite scandalously he suggests: "This is directly reminiscent of the Mayday parade in Kyiv [several days] after the [nuclear] accident in Chernobil [when the city had been showered with nuclear material]."
But most worryingly, he declares: "It is necessary to change the system of organisation of state authority in Ukraine...The principal centre of decision-making should be the National Security and Defence Council, [which he heads, naturally]
LEvko's prescription: He should lie down in a quiet room, take some deep breaths, cold towel on his forehead, have a sip of herbal tea..with honey. Or the men in white coats may be coming for him soon too...
Serious US commentators consider the tough measures undertaken by the Ukrainian government to combat the flu outbreak to be excessive, and warn against politicisation of this health problem. 'Der Spiegel' suspects the sudden concern by Ukraine's politicians for the health of its citizens could just be electioneering. And the pesky swine flu virus may be not as tough as first thought...
P.s. The World Health Organisation yesterday reported: "Regions in western Ukraine continue to show the highest rates of acute respiratory illness/influenza-like illness. The level of activity in the Kyiv area is also increasing rapidly."
If the president is so concerned about the spread of flu at mass meetings then why oh why did he not use his powers to postpone or cancel tonight's European Champion's League soccer game in Kyiv? [Doh! Never thought of that!]
The WHO report "strongly recommends early treatment with the antiviral drugs", [which are currently in worryingly short supply in Ukraine], but also says: "Given the potential significance of this outbreak as an early warning signal, WHO commends the government of Ukraine for its transparent reporting and open sharing of samples. WHO continues to recommend no closing of borders and no restrictions on international travel, including to Ukraine. Experience shows that such measures will not stop further spread of the virus."