Ukraine on Friday announced the implementation of some of Europe's toughest measures to combat swine flu, closing schools and cinemas and banning public gatherings for at least three weeks.
The moves ordered by Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko came after the country confirmed at least four swine flu-related deaths, Ukraine's first since the outbreak started in Mexico and the United States last April.
The government is also to implement a "special system" to limit unnecessary travel. It is reportedly considering a quarantine in the west of the country, where the virus has been concentrated, or possibly a quarantine of the entire country.
"The virus is spreading very fast," said Health Minister Vasyl Knyazevych.
Closures may disrupt presidential campaign, sporting events
The epidemic comes at an inopportune time for Ukraine's presidential candidates, who have recently kicked off campaigning ahead of the election on Jan. 17.
Tymoshenko, herself a presidential hopeful, said all pre-election events would be cancelled until the situation has stabilized.
Government officials are also reportedly in discussions with international soccer authorities to discuss whether the measures would affect two upcoming games in Ukraine.
The country is scheduled to host a UEFA Champions League match between Dynamo Kiev and Inter Milan next Wednesday and a World Cup qualifying match between Ukraine and Greece on Nov. 18.
The H1N1 swine flu virus has killed more than 5,700 people around the world since last April, according to the World Health Organization.
At least 281 people have died in Europe, where governments have started mass vaccination programs in preparation for the winter flu season.
Editor: Chuck Penfold