The coronavirus pandemic has devastated the global economy. Picture: Francois Nel/Getty Images
The coronavirus pandemic has devastated the global economy. Picture: Francois Nel/Getty Images

Death toll hits 18 as cases near 4200

Australia has passed 4100 confirmed coronavirus cases and the death toll has risen to 18 after the ACT and Tasmania recorded their first victims.

The woman in her 80s died at Tasmania's North-West Regional Hospital this morning, Premier Peter Gutwein announced.

"I have been saying for weeks that this is serious that people will die and, unfortunately, Tasmania now has its first death," Mr Gutwein told reporters. "All Tasmanians need to accept and understand that this is not a game."

The national capital's first death came over the weekend, ACT Health announced on Monday afternoon. The woman in her 80s who acquired the disease overseas died at Canberra Hospital.

"My thoughts are with the family and friends of this person through such a difficult time," ACT Chief Health Officer Dr Kerryn Coleman said in a statement.

Total confirmed cases, based on a tally of numbers provided by each state and territory, stand at 4197.

As of Monday morning there were 1918 in NSW, 821 in Victoria, 689 in Queensland, 299 in South Australia, 311 in Western Australia, 66 in Tasmania, 78 in the Australian Capital Territory and 15 in the Northern Territory.

Eighteen people have now died - two in WA, two in Queensland, eight in NSW, four in Victoria, one in Tasmania and one in the ACT.

"If you are outside, or in your backyard, gathering in more than two people, if you are having friends over for dinner or friends over for drinks that are not members of your household, then you are breaking the law," Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews said this morning.

"You face an on-the-spot fine of more than $1600 and Victoria Police will not hesitate to take action against you. That is how serious this is. No one in my position enjoys doing this. We're not doing it for any other reason than this is life and death. If we allow our health system to be overrun, then people will die. That is just a price that is just not worth paying. No gathering with friends is worth someone's life."

Mr Andrews stressed that while vulnerable people were at the highest risk, "there are other people who have been otherwise healthy, no pre-existing medical conditions, in their 40s and 50s who have died in other parts of the world".

"This is not just about grandma, this is about all of us," he said.

"Unless you want to be burying an elderly relative or your best mate, or your parents, do the right thing. It is very, very simple - stay at home."

Chief medical officer Brendan Murphy said last night the outbreak was "much less than perhaps some people might have predicted some time ago, without mitigation".

Prof Murphy said there were "some early hopeful signs" public health measures and social distancing were flattening the curve of new infections, adding Australia had one of the highest levels of testing and lowest positive test rates.

"We feel reasonably confident that we are detecting a significant majority of the cases in Australia - that means that we can get on top of cases when they're detected," he said.

But he stressed "it's not enough".

"We have to slow it further and we have to stop the thing that's worrying us most, which is community transmission - transmission without known links to a known case," he said.

"That is of concern, particularly in Sydney and to a lesser extent in Melbourne and southeast Queensland. There are tiny pockets of it in other states."

Prof Murphy said social distancing was the best way to control community transmission.

"We have to change the way we as people interact with each other," he said.

"It's very simple - we need to all stay home unless we're going out to shop, to do personal exercise, to go to medical appointments, or to go to work or study if you cannot work from home. Anyone who doesn't need to be out of their home, should be in the home. For these interventions to take effect, the science shows you need more than 90 per cent of the population to be doing it all the time."

Recently arrived overseas travellers wait inside to check in at the Crown Promenade Hotel in Melbourne on Sunday for 14-day quarantine. Picture: Scott Barbour/AAP
Recently arrived overseas travellers wait inside to check in at the Crown Promenade Hotel in Melbourne on Sunday for 14-day quarantine. Picture: Scott Barbour/AAP

 

DEATH TOLL

Australia's first coronavirus fatality was on Sunday, March 1.

He was a 78-year-old Perth man who was among 163 Australians evacuated from the Diamond Princess cruise ship in Japan and quarantined at Howard Springs in the Northern Territory.

The second death came on Tuesday, March 3. The 95-year-old woman was a resident at the Dorothy Henderson Lodge in Macquarie Park, in Sydney's north.

Two other residents of the same nursing home later died - an 82-year-old man on Sunday, March 8, followed by a 90-year-old woman on Saturday, March 14.

On Friday, March 13, a 77-year-old woman died in a Sydney hospital after recently arriving from Queensland. She had developed symptoms on the plane, was taken to hospital and died the same day.

An 86-year-old man died in a Sydney hospital on Tuesday, March 17, making him the state's fifth death and the country's sixth.

On Thursday, March 19, an 81-year-old woman died in hospital, bringing the death toll to seven. NSW Health said she had close contact with another confirmed case at Ryde Hospital.

The eighth death was a woman in her 70s who was rushed to hospital after disembarking the Ruby Princess cruise ship in Sydney on March 14. She died in hospital on Tuesday morning, March 24.

The ninth death was another Ruby Princess passenger. The 68-year-old Queensland man died in the afternoon on Wednesday, March 25, in intensive care at Toowoomba Hospital after returning from Sydney.

Two men in their 70s died in hospital in Victoria that same night, marking the state's first deaths and the country's 10th and 11th. On Thursday, March 26, another Victorian man in his 70s died in hospital.

Later that day, another man in his 70s died in Joondalup Hospital in Perth after fainting in his home. He had also recently been on a cruise ship that had docked in Sydney, the Celebrity Solstice.

On Saturday, March 28, another Dorothy Henderson Lodge resident died in hospital, bringing the national death toll to 14.

The 15th and 16th deaths were announced moments apart on Sunday, March 28 - a 75-year-old female Ruby Princess passenger who died in Caboolture hospital, north of Brisbane, the previous night, and a man in his 80s who died at a Melbourne hospital.

On Monday, March 30, a woman in her 80s died at North-West Regional Hospital, making her Tasmania's first death and the country's 17th.

The national capital's first death came over the weekend, but was announced by ACT Health announced on Monday afternoon. The woman in her 80s died at Canberra Hospital after acquiring the disease overseas.

Returning overseas travellers are ushered into the Intercontinental Hotel in Sydney for their 14-day quarantine on Sunday. Picture Jeremy Piper/AAP
Returning overseas travellers are ushered into the Intercontinental Hotel in Sydney for their 14-day quarantine on Sunday. Picture Jeremy Piper/AAP

 

CORONAVIRUS AUSTRALIA

The majority of Australia's coronavirus cases were acquired overseas.

Europe, the Americas and cruise ship travel are now the most common sources of infection, surpassing China.

People in their 20s make up the biggest proportion of confirmed COVID-19 cases due to the high number of returning travellers, with significantly more women than men testing positive in that age group.

Those in their 60s make up the second-largest group, followed by those in their 50s, 30s and 40s. Among those in their 40s, significantly more men than women have tested positive.

People in their 70s make up a smaller but still concerning number of total cases, while far fewer people aged over 80 or under 20 have been diagnosed.

The first case of COVID-19 was detected on January 25 in Victoria.

The patient was a man from Wuhan, Hubei province - where the Chinese virus emerged late last year - who flew to Melbourne from Guangdong on January 19.

Three more cases were detected the same day in NSW.

All three were men who had recently returned from China - two had been in Wuhan and one had direct contact with a confirmed case from the virus epicentre.

Since then, the number of cases has risen exponentially.

NSW quickly became ground zero for the Australian outbreak, and now makes up nearly half of all cases in the country.

frank.chung@news.com.au

 

Originally published as Death toll hits 18 as cases near 4200