September 24, 2022

Has Ukraine’s PM exploited swine flu panic?

Yulia Tymoshenko may have deliberately exaggerated fears of a swine-flu epidemic to boost her flagging presidential campaign.

Yulia Tymoshenko takes chargePublic health officials have warned that
the threat of pandemics could be exploited for political purposes. Now
the magazine Foreign Policy claims that Ukrainian prime minister Yulia
Tymoshenko has deliberately exaggerated fears of a swine-flu epidemic
to boost her flagging presidential campaign.

“We had to create a phantom and then have a
white knight riding in to save the day,” Taras Berezovets, a senior
campaign advisor for Tymoshenko’s BYuT bloc, told journalist Julia
Ioffe – although he subsequently said that his remarks had been taken
out of context.

The poorly organised Ukrainian health
system responded sluggishly and almost 400 people died of the
flu in just three weeks, according to Foreign Policy. Pharmacies ran
out of surgical masks and medicines after panic buying and hoarding.

Tymoshenko organised a delivery of Tamiflu,
quarantined nine regions of the country, closed all schools and universities, and petitioned the president for US$125 million in
emergency funding. She also banned all mass gatherings and political
rallies — after hers had finished. 

However, most of this may not have been
needed. The World Health Organization observed that “the numbers of
severe cases do not appear to be excessive when compared to the
experience of other countries”.

But her show of vigorous action may have
worked. Since then, Ms Tymoshenko has been steadily making up a huge
gap in the polls. If she wins the January election, it could be first
poll to be decided by a pandemic. ~ Foreign Policy, Nov 25

Michael Cook
pandemic
politics
swine flu