Australia's public broadcaster has been forced to apologise on behalf of prominent health editor and broadcaster Norman Swan for incorrectly linking the deaths of cricketer Shane Warne and Labor Senator Kimberley Kitching to COVID-19.
Swan made the contentious comments last week during a television interview on ABC, where he cited a 2020 study suggesting it was "too much of a coincidence" that both Warne and Kitching died "not long after a COVID infection, and people are reporting sudden deaths after a COVID infection."
Kitching had never been diagnosed with COVID-19.
Both she and Warne are suspected of having died from sudden heart attacks earlier this year. They were both 52.
The ABC, through television host Michael Rowland, issued an apology for suggesting there was a "COVID link to the deaths" of both individuals.
Swan Criticised for CommentsIn response, Dr. Nick Coatsworth, formerly the federal deputy chief medical officer, was critical of Swan's comments saying it "wasn't his best moment."
He also questioned why Swan was citing a study from 2020.
"This was pre-vaccine, pre-Omicron waves, pre-the amount of hybrid immunity we've got in the community," he said.
Coatsworth has been a vocal critic of continuing the harsh suppression policies that swept much of Australia during the pandemic years.
A local October study labelled those policies "excessive" and "harsh."
Meanwhile, Australian health officials are warning of a potential "variant soup" of COVID-19 strains supposed to sweep the country.
“The experience to date with these variants overseas is that they do not appear to pose a greater risk of severe illness and death—and that the COVID-19 vaccines provide good protection against these outcomes,” he said in a statement.