A man from Perth has become the first Australian to die as a result of coronavirus, health officials have confirmed.
The 78-year-old, who has not been named, passed away at Perth’s Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital in the early hours of Sunday morning. He was evacuated to Perth from Darwin on February 21, having tested positive for the virus whilst in quarantine.
The man and his wife, who also tested positive just days ago, were two of 164 Australians who were placed in isolation at Howard Springs, NT, after being quarantined onboard the Diamond Princess cruise ship in Japan.
WA’s Chief Health Officer Dr Andrew Robertson addressed the media about the situation on Sunday morning and confirmed that the man’s wife remained in a stable condition in hospital and is being treated in a negative pressure room.
“Our condolences are with his family and unfortunately he’s the first death we’ve had from coronavirus in Australia,” he said. “His wife had the opportunity to talk to him prior to his death, she’s obviously quite upset.”
He went on to say that the death does not change anything in terms of the status of the virus in Australia. He added: “We always knew that this as a disease could be very serious, particularly in those who are more elderly and those who had chronic conditions. And unfortunately as it has in this case, this gentleman has passed away.”
Earlier this week Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Health Minister Greg Hunt activated the government’s emergency response plan in response to the spread of the virus, with the PM telling the public that the “risk of a pandemic is upon us”.
“I want to stress that these actions are being taken in an abundance of caution,” Morrison said during a press conference at Parliament House on Thursday.
“While the WHO is yet to declare the nature of the coronavirus and its move towards a pandemic phase, we believe the risk of a global pandemic is very much upon us and as a result is a government we need to take the steps necessary to prepare for such a pandemic.”
The government said it took the action due to the pace at which coronavirus is spreading outside of China, however Morrison stressed that there is no reason for people to stop attending public events or avoiding going out for meals.
The PM added: “The key message is because of the actions we’ve taken on the coronavirus, we’ve got ahead, we intend to stay ahead and together we will get through this.”