The elderly Perth man who became Australia’s first coronavirus fatality has been identified as tourism pioneer James Kwan.
It has been just over 10 days since the 78-year-old who was holidaying with his wife Theresa aboard the Diamond Princess cruise ship had tested positive for coronavirus.
Mr Kwan died from the infection in the early hours of Sunday morning at Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital in Perth.
It came as the number of countries hit by the coronavirus climbed past 60, with infections and deaths mounting around the globe.
A Melbourne woman who tested positive on Sunday after returning from Iran is the ninth confirmed case of coronavirus in Victoria.
Mrs Kwan who is stable after she, too, contracted the virus released a short statement paying tribute to her late husband.
“My husband passed away peacefully knowing that his family loved him,” she said.
The couple was among 162 other Australians flown to the quarantine facility at Howard Springs in the Northern Territory where they were kept in strict isolation. Photo: AAP
The retired travel agent helped grow Perth's inbound tourist numbers after he established Wel-Travel in 1988.
A close friend who did not want to be identified said Mr Kwan's death was "really tragic" as he and his 79-year-old wife were "very much a hand-in-glove couple'.
"Wherever James was, Theresa was there to support him in the family business,” the friend told The Australian.
Mr Kwan was also a respected board member of the Australian Tourism Export Council.
Its managing director Peter Shelley said, "James was always smiling, and he gave a lot of time to the industry".
“He broke a lot of new ground in the inbound tourism area, moving into places like Malaysia, China and Indonesia early on. It’s partly on his shoulders that an industry dedicated to bringing in international tourists has grown,” Mr Shelley told The Australian.
Prime minister Scott Morrison also expressed his condolences to Mr Kwan's family, saying he was "very saddened" by the news of his death.
Am very saddened at the death of an elderly Australian man from Perth, who contracted COVID-19 and we evacuated from the Diamond Princess in Japan. We join his family and friends in mourning his passing. COVID-19 is especially more severe for older people with other frailties.— Scott Morrison (@ScottMorrisonMP) March 1, 2020
As of early Monday morning, more than 87,400 people worldwide have been infected, and 2990 have died of Covid-19.
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Mr Kwan's body could not defend itself against the virus as his immune response was most likely weakened due to the effects of ageing and the fact he would have suffered from other chronic conditions like many others in their late 70s, Chief Health Officer Dr Andrew Robertson said.
The Diamond Princess cruise ship had around 3,700 people on board, with 10 passengers confirmed to be infected with coronavirus. Photo: Getty
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.
Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt said the Morrison government has a national coronavirus plan with health authorities anticipating more cases.
"With the international spread of this virus, it is almost inevitable that we will see more cases of COVID-19 in Australia in coming weeks," he said in a statement on Sunday.
In a further effort to prevent the spread of the virus, the government announced on Saturday that foreign nationals who have been in Iran will be banned from entering Australia for 14 days.
Four new virus cases were confirmed on the weekend in people returning from Iran, before the ban was imposed.
NSW health authorities confirmed the state's fifth and six cases as a man in his 40s and a woman in her 50s who both returned to Sydney from Iran.
Covid-19 cases soar across the globe
Many cases of the virus have been relatively mild, and some of those infected apparently show no symptoms at all. Photo: Getty
In Italy, the number of people infected with coronavirus rose 40 per cent to 1576 in 24 hours.
Another five infected people have died, bringing the number of deaths in Italy to 34.
China, where the outbreak began two months ago, on Sunday reported a slight uptick in new cases over the past 24 hours to 573, the first time in five days that the number exceeded 500.
South Korea reported 210 additional cases and two more deaths from the virus, raising its totals to 3736 cases and 20 fatalities.
Iran's death toll climbed to 54 as the number of confirmed cases jumped overnight by more than half, to 978 people.
The new figures represent 11 more deaths than reported on Saturday and 385 new cases.
Iraq's Health Ministry announced the discovery of six more cases on Sunday, raising the total to 19 – all Iran-linked.
In the Czech Republic, three cases were reported, including a US citizen who had been studying in Milan and had travelled to the Czech Republic on a tourist trip.
British health authorities said the number of people confirmed as infected rose by 12, bringing the country's tally to 35, with one death.