They are prized possessions in Ukraine right now but not everyone can get their hands on a mask as swine flu triggers alarm across the country.
The virus has reached epidemic levels in some western areas. Conflicting figures about how many people have died – between four and 48 – have spread confusion. Hence a ‘keep calm’ message from Ukraine’s Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko. “It is a very dangerous disease that could threaten people’s lives,” she told the nation in a special televised address. “But we should not give way to panic.” Yet queues outside pharmacies which are being emptied of masks and flu medicines indicate panic is in the air. The government has taken some of the most drastic measures in the world to combat HIN1. It has closed schools, restricted travel and banned public meetings. The outbreak comes as Ukraine gears up for a presidential election.