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21 Oct, 2020 12:35

Victoria's premier goes on the defensive after Melbourne lockdown blamed for deaths of four newborns denied urgent medical care

Victoria's premier goes on the defensive after Melbourne lockdown blamed for deaths of four newborns denied urgent medical care

Victoria’s Premier Daniel Andrews has denied claims that his Covid-19 restrictions played a role in the tragic deaths of four newborns who failed to receive urgent medical care, contradicting testimony from a government inquiry.

Four babies died in Adelaide, South Australia in the past four weeks after they could not be airlifted to Melbourne’s Royal Children’s hospital, purportedly due to the draconian measures imposed on the city by Andrews. The four newborns needed emergency heart surgery that they apparently couldn’t receive treatment for locally. 

The South Australian parliament's public health services committee held an inquiry on Tuesday to determine why the babies didn’t receive the care they needed. A professor who testified at the hearing said that due to Melbourne’s coronavirus restrictions, transporting patients to the hospital was “no longer tenable.” One of the four deaths was reported to the committee shortly after the inquest. 

The Australian newspaper reported the families of the infants were told that their children were not permitted to enter Victoria for the operations under the state’s strict stage-four lockdown rules. 

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During a press conference on Wednesday, Andrews deflected blame for the newborns’ deaths. He said that his government’s health authorities told him that they did not prevent the children from being transported to Melbourne. 

“I don't think it is a matter of restrictions,” he said, claiming “there was a choice not at our end, but the other end for them not to be sent.”

Adelaide’s Women's and Children's Hospital said in a statement that its pediatric cardiac surgery services are currently under review, and promised that “South Australian children will always have access to the health services they need.”

The deaths of the four newborns have sparked outrage across Australia. In an on-air screed, Sky News Australia host Paul Murray lashed out at the “failures of South Australian government” and the “incompetence of the Victorian government,” and said it was “outrageous” that a developed country such as Australia was incapable of saving the children’s lives. 

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Melbourne has endured one of the world’s longest lockdowns, with residents prohibited from traveling more than 25km (15.5 miles) to carry out essential activities such as grocery shopping. Stay-at-home orders in place until November 2 place tight limitations on permitted reasons to go out. 

Earlier this month, 500 doctors in Australia penned a letter urging the Victorian government to reconsider the stringent measures, describing them as “disproportionate and unscientific.”

With a population of 6.3 million people, Victoria registered three new positive coronavirus tests in the past twenty-four hours, with the total number of cases standing at 20,323. No new deaths were reported. 

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