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Cablegate: Ukraine's Flu Levels Similar to Other Affected Countries

VZCZCXRO8969
PP RUEHIK
DE RUEHKV #1911/01 3081526
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 041526Z NOV 09
FM AMEMBASSY KYIV
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 8730
INFO RUCNCIS/CIS COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RUEHZG/NATO EU COLLECTIVE PRIORITY
RUEHPH/CDC ATLANTA GA PRIORITY
RUEAUSA/DEPT OF HHS WASHINGTON DC PRIORITY

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 KYIV 001911

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: CDC SOCI PREL AMED CASC XH UP
SUBJECT: UKRAINE'S FLU LEVELS SIMILAR TO OTHER AFFECTED COUNTRIES

REF: A) 09 KYIV 01890 B) 09 KYIV 01893 C) 09 KYIV 01900

KYIV 00001911 001.2 OF 002


SENSITIVE BUT UNCLASSIFIED, NOT FOR INTERNET DISTRIBUTION

1. (SBU) Summary. While the flu epidemic is spreading across
Ukraine, public panic levels appear to have dropped slightly, as
some rationality returned to the discussion. According to the World
Health Organization (WHO), there has been one officially confirmed
H1N1 death and 14 non-lethal H1N1 cases. The number of flu- and
pneumonia-related deaths meanwhile exceeded 80, Deputy Minister of
Health and Chief Sanitary Doctor Oleksandr Bilovol said in a press
conference on November 4. Several countries including Poland,
Hungary, Slovakia and Georgia pledged assistance to Ukraine to fight
the outbreak and provided medicine and H1N1 testing kits. At the
same time, Slovakia closed two of its five border crossings with
Ukraine and other countries announced stricter border controls to
prevent the flu from spreading into their territories. To combat
the virus, the Verkhovna Rada (Ukraine's parliament) approved
amendments to the budget on Tuesday to allocate UAH 1 billion ($125
million) to the Ministry of Health. However, questions about the
funding source quickly arose, fueling debate about the
politicization of the epidemic. End Summary.

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ONE OFFICIALLY CONFIRMED H1N1 DEATH
-----------------------------------

2. (SBU) In a briefing for the diplomatic community on November 3,
the WHO country office head Igor Pokanevych said there has been one
officially confirmed H1N1 death in Ukraine and 14 non-lethal cases
of H1N1. Yet, despite this relatively low number of confirmed
cases, the WHO said in a statement that most flu cases in Ukraine
can be assumed to be H1N1, "as the pandemic virus has rapidly become
the dominant influenza strain worldwide." According to preliminary
findings by the WHO, however, nothing indicates that Ukraine's flu
outbreak is different from those experienced in other countries. A
special WHO team, which arrived in Ukraine on November 2 at the
invitation of the government, is currently working closely with the
Ministry of Health to study the outbreak and take adequate measures
to protect the population.

VACCINES AND SURGICAL MASKS
---------------------------

3. (SBU) According to WHO's Pokanevych, two H1N1 vaccines, produced
by Russia and Canada, are currently undergoing a registration
process in Ukraine and could be available in December 2009-January
2010. Ukraine is also expected to procure 700,000 doses of Tamiflu
from Swiss drug manufacturer Hoffmann-La Roche Ltd, in addition to
300,000 doses already purchased (ref C). Prime Minister Tymoshenko
also reportedly tasked Foreign Minister Poroshenko with procuring
additional medication from international companies "at a special
pandemic price." In a more populist move, Tymoshenko said that all
Ukrainian will be provided with a surgical mask within one week,
according to Interfax news service.

STATE-RUN DRUGSTORES
--------------------

4. (SBU) Ostensibly to ensure availability and affordability of
medicine, Tymoshenko suggested that a state network of drugstores be
created and asked the government to draft a plan to this effect by
November 11. The Prime Minister proposed that owners of drugstores
engaged in "profiteering" be criminally prosecuted and the Security
Service of Ukraine (SBU) reportedly closed several pharmacies which
failed to carry the recommended assortment of medications, according
to First Deputy Health Minister Vasyl Lazorishinets.

CAN THE NATIONAL BANK PAY FOR ANTI-FLU PROGRAM?
--------------------------------------------- --

5. (SBU) The Verkhovna Rada overwhelmingly approved amendments to
the 2009 budget on November 3 to allocate UAH 1 billion ($125
million) to the Ministry of Health to combat the flu. According to
the amendments, the funds are to be provided by the National Bank of
Ukraine (NBU) and redirected from the state program for financing
Ukraine's preparations for the Euro-2012 soccer championship.
[Note: These outlays are to be financed from the NBU's "future"
profit earned in 2009. The NBU however estimates that its 2009
profit will be about UAH 608 million ($76 million) and repeatedly
spoke out against an advance payment to the budget. End Note.]
According to NBU Deputy Governor Shapovalov, "it is up to the
government how to use the UAH 608 million both to pay for the Euro
2012 Championship and the anti-flu campaign."

INTERNATIONAL ASSISTANCE
------------------------

6. (SBU) The WHO has donated 61,000 treatment courses of Tamiflu to
Ukraine and provided Ukrainian laboratories with H1N1 test kits.

KYIV 00001911 002.2 OF 002


According to the WHO, the Ukrainian government has also reached an
agreement with Indian pharmaceutical companies on the supply of
medicines and medical equipment to Ukraine. Slovakia, Poland,
Hungary and Georgia have already provided assistance to Ukraine,
including H1N1 testing kits and antiviral drugs. China and
Singapore have reportedly agreed to render expert assistance to
Ukraine. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) has been tasked with
coordinating all international assistance.

BORDER SITUATION
----------------

7. (U) Slovakia said on November 3 it closed two of its five border
crossings with Ukraine to prevent the spread of H1N1 into its
territory. Russia boosted controls on its borders with Ukraine and,
according to news reports, announced it would quarantine people with
severe flu symptoms. There have also been unconfirmed press reports
of stricter border regimes and potential closures at the Ukrainian
border with Moldova, Romania and Poland.

COMMENT
-------

8. (SBU) The panic level in the media appears to have diminished
slightly, due to the arrival of the special WHO team and a more
unified message from the government. The public seems calmed by
reports that, based on preliminary findings, the WHO team has
confirmed Ukraine is experiencing a flu epidemic at a level
comparable to other affected countries, including the U.S. End
Comment.

PETTIT

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