1 Mar 2020

First Australian death from coronavirus

8:28 pm on 1 March 2020

An elderly Perth man who spent time on board the Diamond Princess cruise ship has become the first Australian to die after contracting the Covid-19 coronavirus.

Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital, Perth

Photo: Gnangarra, CC

His death was confirmed by Western Australia's chief health officer Andrew Robertson.

The 78-year-old man and his 79-year-old wife were among the 3700 people on board the Diamond Princess cruise ship, including 14 New Zealanders and 164 Australians, when cases of coronavirus began to emerge.

Passengers were placed under isolation, but the virus continued to spread on the ship, with hundreds of people testing positive, including another WA man, who was taken off the ship to be treated in Japan.

Four New Zealanders who were on the ship have previously tested positive for Covid-19 in Japan. All four were taken to hospital in Japan to be treated.

Six New Zealanders who were evacuated from the ship on an Australian flight are currently in quaratine at Whangaparaoa air base.

The elderly Perth couple were flown back to their home city just over a week ago, where the man has been in isolation at Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital.

Read more about the Covid-19 coronavirus:

'No risk to the general community'

On Friday, the Australian Health Department confirmed the man's wife had also recently tested positive for coronavirus.

Dr Robertson said the woman remained in a stable condition in hospital.

"She had the opportunity to talk to him prior to his death, but she's understandably quite upset. And I obviously ask that people respect their privacy," he said.

Dr Robertson said the man's family was also able to speak to him on Saturday night by phone or through the glass in the isolation unit before he died this morning.

He said no members of the public had been put at risk by the man's diagnosis.

"He was identified very early on, when he was on the flight back from the Diamond Princess, he was put in isolation, he was transferred to us, and obviously placed in isolation on arrival.

"He's been managed in isolation ever since … there's no risk to the general community or to staff."

The Diamond Princess cruise ship at Yokohama port on 6 February.

The Diamond Princess cruise ship at Yokohama port on 6 February. Photo: AFP / Yomiuri

Australia's Minister of Health Greg Hunt sent condolences to the man's family, and said the news would also be upsetting for the others evacuated from the Diamond Princess who are still in quarantine at Howard Springs in the Northern Territory.

He said with the virus continuing to spread across the world, it was almost inevitable that Australia would see more cases in the coming weeks.

But he added that the government was meeting daily with state and territory health officials to prepare for whatever challenges the virus brought.

United Kingdom and United States both confirm first deaths from coronavirus

A British man has become the first UK citizen to die from coronavirus after being infected on the Diamond Princess cruise ship in Japan, Japan's Health ministry said.

Another person has tested positive for the virus in England, after they caught it in the UK.

The total number of coronavirus cases in the UK now stands at 20.

The US has reported its first death from the virus, in the north-west state of Washington.

US President Donald Trump said more cases were "likely" but that the US was prepared for any circumstance.

How is Australia dealing with the coronavirus outbreak?

Australia has 25 confirmed cases of the illness, and the government there has declared the country is "pandemic ready".

Queensland authorities have been working over the weekend to track down up to 40 people treated by a Gold Coast beautician who recently returned from Iran, and was later diagnosed with the virus.

Earlier today, NSW Health confirmed the fifth case of coronavirus in that state: a man in his 40s, who recently returned from a trip to Iran.

The Federal Government has announced a travel ban on foreigners coming to Australia from Iran.


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