Prime Minister Yulia V. Tymoshenko announced the measures on Friday in response to rising fears about swine flu, especially in western Ukraine. Federal health officials said 33 people had died from the flu across the country, although there was conflicting information about which type of the virus was to blame.
The situation in Ukraine “has reached the epidemic threshold,” Ms. Tymoshenko said. The ban on public gatherings, she said, would apply to “all large-scale events, concerts, movie showings and any other gatherings of people for the next three weeks.”
The World Health Organization said it would send a team to Ukraine to assist the authorities there.
News reports from western part of the country said there were long lines at pharmacies as people sought medication and masks.
With all rallies canceled, the anti-flu measures were expected to have an immediate impact on the campaign for Ukraine’s presidency. The election is on Jan. 17, and Ms. Tymoshenko formally registered as a candidate on Saturday. She said she did not expect that the voting would have to be postponed.
The virus is spreading across Eastern Europe, but it was not clear why Ms. Tymoshenko chose to undertake stronger moves, like closing schools nationwide, than her counterparts in Russia and Poland.
There were indications, however, that the government’s response was being influenced by electoral politics. Ms. Tymoshenko, one of the leading candidates, and her bitter rival, President Viktor A. Yushchenko, who is far behind in opinion polls in his bid for re-election, both sought to make clear that they were aggressively addressing the outbreak.
On Friday, Mr. Yushchenko criticized Ms. Tymoshenko, saying that he had ordered an inquiry into why the country was not, in his opinion, prepared.
“We will have an assessment of the issues that arose — why this has turned out to be so acute,” he said.
Source: The New York Times