Kiev - The death toll from what has been described as a flu epidemic in Ukraine continued to climb on Monday, as medical assistance from other countries began arriving in the former Soviet republic. Health Ministry figures placed the number of dead from flu infection at 60 people. Swine flu was responsible for some but possibly not all of the deaths, according to a Health Ministry statement.
More than 191,000 Ukrainians had registered with public health authorities as suffering from flu, of whom 83,000 were children, according to an Interfax news agency report.
Most of those infected were in Ukraine's western provinces, adjacent to the European Union nations Poland, Slovakia, Hungary and Romania.
Some 7,000 flu-infected had been hospitalised, and 123 were listed on Sunday evening as in critical condition, said Health Minister Vasyl Kniazevych, in a Channel 5 television interview.
Four persons killed by the flu had been health workers, he said.
Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko at a nationally-televised cabinet meeting on Monday called for calm and said her government and the country would be able to deal with the health crisis.
"We have an epidemic of conventional flu, which is accompanied by a small number of swine flu cases...and one of our tasks is to determine which is which," she said. "At the same time we have to battle with panic-mongering by irresponsible politicians...and some government officials."
Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko met with a delegation from the World Health Organization on Monday. Kiev needs further international assistance in combating the flu epidemic, which poses a threat to Ukraine's national security, Yushchenko said.
A Ukrainian military cargo plane loaded with the flu medication Tamiflu late Sunday evening landed at Kiev's Borispyl airport, to be met by Tymoshenko.
The drug, produced by Swiss-based Roche, would be turned over wholesale to Ukraine's public health system, to prevent price-gouging by private distributors, Tymoshenko said.
Poland was the first country to donate medical aid to Ukraine, with a lorry-load of medical supplies on Saturday. The delivery going to a Lviv province hospital contained 80 packets of Tamiflu, 300 surgical masks, 70 sets of protective clothing, and a breath- assistance device.
Shortages in flu remedies, surgical masks and even Vitamin C tablets were reported across Ukraine, despite the foreign assistance, as panic buying emptied chemist shelves.
Black market prices of some flu remedies, particularly Tamiflu, had rocketed to as much as 10 times normal retail value, Tymoshenko said.
Educational institutions from nursery schools through universities kept their doors shut across Ukraine on Monday, as a Tymoshenko-announced ban on public gatherings went into effect.
Ukraine's senior football league, nonetheless, conducted a routine round of matches over the weekend, with games held in stadiums nationwide.