MELBOURNE - A former passenger on the Diamond Princess cruise ship that was quarantined off Japan for coronavirus (COVID-19) died in a hospital in Perth early on Sunday, a health official said, becoming Australia’s first death from the virus.
The 78-year-old man James Kwan had been in quarantine since being evacuated from the cruise ship off Yokohama, one of more than 150 Australians taken off the vessel.
“Our condolences are with his family and unfortunately he’s the first death we’ve had from coronavirus in Australia,” Andrew Robertson, the chief health officer of Western Australia state, told journalists.
The man’s widow Theresa also caught the virus, but is in stable condition, the health official said.
Travel agent Mr Kwan was flown to Perth on February 21, after being diagnosed with coronavirus 10 days ago while in quarantine in Northern Territory’s Howard Springs.
He was in isolation in Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital before he died on Sunday morning.
“My husband passed away peacefully knowing that his family loved him,” Mrs Kwan said in a statement obtained by The Australian.
According to the publication, Mr Kwan founded Perth tour company Wel-Travel in 1988, before handing the business over to his son Edwin in recent years.
“James and Theresa were very much a hand-in-glove couple — wherever James was, Theresa was there to support him in the family business,” a friend told the news outlet.
Australia’s tally of virus infections rose by one to 26 on Sunday, the latest government figures showed.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison said in a tweet that he was saddened to hear of the man’s passing and the government would continue to do what it could to protect Australians from coronavirus.
“We are monitoring and responding to the information we are receiving every day,” Morrison tweeted. “We are not immune, but we are as prepared as any country can be and we will get through this.”
On Saturday, Australia said it would deny entry to all foreigners travelling from Iran because of the spreading virus in the Islamic republic.
There have been more than 85,000 virus infections worldwide, the majority in China, the World Health Organisation said. Outside China, it has spread to 53 countries, with more than 6,000 cases and 86 deaths.
Reporting by Will Ziebell