Lockdown’s hidden drowning danger

As Melbourne enters its second week of lockdown, LSV is reminding parents to be aware of the hidden drowning dangers around the home following a spike in child drownings during last year’s lockdown.

According to LSV GM Health Promotion and Communications Dr Bernadette Matthews, six children tragically drowned in or around the home environment during Melbourne’s second lockdown last year (7 July – 28 October 2020), five more than the average for that time of year.

This is on top of a further seven child drownings that occurred in open waterways or public pools and one additional child drowning in the home environment since 1 July – making this financial year’s current child drowning toll of 14 the worst since 1999/2000 (as at 6 June).

“The last thing we want to see is this tragedy repeat itself this lockdown, so we’re urging parents to be aware of the hidden drowning dangers around their homes,” Dr Matthews said.

“Children can drown in as little as a few centimeters of water and in just 20 seconds, so please make sure there are no buckets filled with water, plugged bathtubs left unattended or pool gates open which could pose a risk.

“We know how tricky juggling work, childcare, home schooling, managing a household and navigating lockdowns can be, but please don’t let water safety slip your mind while multitasking around the home.”

Dr Matthews says the rule to remember is keeping kids under five in arm’s reach and under 10s in eyesight around water.

“This extends from the home environment to your two hours of exercise if heading to local waterways with little ones, or even alone,” she said.

“With the winter chill well and truly set in, there’s the additional risk of cold-water shock if you do unintentionally enter the water, which significantly increases your risk of drowning, even for the most experienced swimmers.

“Another key risk during this time is unintentional entry to water, which contributed to half of all Victorian drownings over the past 10 years. This includes falls from slippery banks, alcohol or adverse weather and activities such as boating, kayaking and rock fishing.

“If you are planning on exercising around water, or if you live regionally and are planning on recreating on or around water over the long weekend, please keep your safety front of mind.

“Boaters and fishers should wear a lifejacket at all times, head out with a mate and make sure people know where you’re going and when you’ll be back. If you drink alcohol, please, delay your aquatic activity.”

Since 1 July 2020, 55 people have drowned in Victoria, the highest number of drownings for this period since record keeping began.

Of these, 22 (40 per cent) occurred on the coast, 19 (35 per cent) inland waterways, 14 (25 per cent) home/other.

Of the 14 children who drowned during this period, eight were children 0-4 years of age and six were children 5-14 years.

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