An elderly Perth man has become the first person in Australia to die from the coronavirus as authorities say an increase in cases is “inevitable” across the country.
Western Australia’s Chief Health Officer Dr Andrew Robertson on Sunday confirmed the 78-year-old died at Perth’s Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital in the early hours of Sunday morning.
The man’s wife said in a statement that her husband passed away peacefully knowing his family loved him. She was also diagnosed with the virus a few days ago and is in a stable condition in the same hospital.
It’s not known if the man’s wife got the virus from her husband, but both were on the Diamond Princess cruise ship, Dr Robertson said.
The man was diagnosed with COVID-19 about 10 days ago while in isolation at Howard Springs in the Northern Territory after being quarantined aboard the Diamond Princess and then flown out of Japan.
“He was in his late 70s, like many people in that age, they’re more likely to have other chronic conditions and it would obviously make being able to fight off this virus more difficult,” Dr Robertson told reporters in Perth.
He added that the elderly man’s death didn’t come as a surprise to doctors as it’s known COVID-19 can start off relatively mild before it progresses.
“It’s often the second week where people will deteriorate and get significant viral pneumonia,” Dr Robertson said, insisting there was no community risk as the man had been in isolation ever since he was diagnosed.
Premier Mark McGowan said he has been asked not to disclose the man’s identity, and told WA residents not to panic.
“All West Australians should continue doing what we ordinarily do,” he said.
“Go to work, attend functions and events engage with family and friends. Don’t change what you’re currently doing and whatever you do, don’t panic in this situation.”