World news – Victorian child deaths spike during Covid lockdown after series of home accidents


Eight children under the age of five die in two months as kids spend more time at home

Eight young children have died in the past two months across Victoria in a series of incidents experts say have spiked due to the state’s Covid-19 lockdown.

Each year an average of 17 children die from unintentional injuries across the state, according to the Victorian Injury Surveillance Unit. But there have been eight deaths since the beginning of August, the coroner reported. They were all aged under five.

The director of trauma at the Royal Children’s Hospital, Dr Warwick Teague, said children were most commonly injured at home and coronavirus lockdown measures meant they were spending more time in that setting. “It is very concerning that the number of deaths of children has been so high in 2020,” Teague said.

Two-year-old Hunter drowned in a dam at his grandfather’s farm on 12 August while others nearby were feeding horses.

“You can’t be complacent, not for a second,” his devastated mother, Ash Napolitano, said. “The way this has impacted me and my family is raw and painful. We buried Hunter on the Tuesday and we saw on the Friday that another two-year-old drowned two hours away from us. It just broke my heart.”

Hunter was one of three children who have drowned since 1 August. The other fatalities included a child who was run over in a driveway, a pedestrian incident, a house fire and the curtain chain tragedy.

All the children were under the age of five, the KidSafe Victoria chief executive, Melanie Courtney, said. “Parents are juggling work, homeschooling and parenting in general with children of multiple ages,” she said.

Teague said the children’s hospital had seen an uptick in severe burns, motorbike and bicycle injuries, while driving and sports cases had fallen away.

Home risks to children were already present before lockdown, and the pandemic had merely “shone a light more brightly” on them, he said. “We can address this. Injury in childhood is not inevitable, it’s preventable and we are seeing preventable injuries and preventable deaths.”

Teague said small and big measures in the home could help prevent child injuries. “It might be moving the pot to the back burner so it doesn’t tip on the little children,” he said.

“It might be saying ‘You can help mix the cake but I’m going to put the cake in and out of the oven’. It might be to go and install a blind cord tensioning safety device. These are all active, positive steps we can take that can break the link between more time at home and more injuries.”


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