Vic child deaths spike linked to lockdown

A spike in accidental child deaths in Victoria includes three drowning cases.
A spike in accidental child deaths in Victoria includes three drowning cases.

Eight young children have died in less than two months across Victoria in a series of incidents experts say have spiked due to COVID-19 lockdown.

In one case, a youngster was unintentionally strangled after getting caught in a curtain chain.

Each year an average 17 children die from unintentional injuries across Victoria according to the Victorian Injury Surveillance Unit. In 2020 there have been eight in less than two months, the coroner reported.

Director of trauma at The Royal Children's Hospital, Warwick Teague, acknowledged children are most commonly injured while at home and that coronavirus lockdown measures have meant more time in that setting.

"It is very concerning that the number of deaths of children has been so high in 2020," Dr Teague said.

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

"You can't be complacent. Not for a second," his devastated mother Ash Napolitano said.

"The way that 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 drowned since August 1. The other child fatalities included a driveway runover, a pedestrian incident, a house fire and the curtain chain strangulation.

All the children were under the age of five, KidSafe Vic chief executive Melanie Courtney said.

"Parents are juggling work, home-schooling and parenting in general with children of multiple ages," she told AAP.

Dr Teague said the Children's Hospital has seen an uptick in severe burns, motorbike and bicycle injuries, while driving and sports cases have fallen away.

Home risks to children were already present before lockdown, and the pandemic had merely "shone a light more brightly on (them)", he added.

"We can address this. Injury in childhood is not inevitable, it's preventable and we are seeing preventable injuries and preventable deaths," he told AAP.

Some Melbourne-based students are set for a staged return to classrooms from September 28.

Dr Teague said big and small measures in the home can 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."

Australian Associated Press