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First coronavirus death in Australia as cases rise, Louvre shuts

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An elderly Perth man has become the first person in Australia to die from the coronavirus, while four people who recently returned from Iran have been confirmed as the latest to test positive for the disease.

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James Kwan, 78, contracted the virus on the Diamond Princess cruise ship in Japan.

He died at Perth’s Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital on Sunday morning after being transferred there from a quarantine facility at Howard Springs in the Northern Territory.

Australia’s health authorities are bracing for more cases of coronavirus as the deadly disease rapidly spreads.

“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,” Health Minister Greg Hunt said.

There are more than 88,000 worldwide cases of the virus and more than 3000 deaths.

“As the numbers rise the deaths also rise,” Australia’s deputy chief medical officer Paul Kelly told ABC radio on Monday.

“Although, we must remember that over 80 per cent of the people that get this infection, it’s relatively mild.”

In an effort to prevent the spread of the virus, the government has banned foreign nationals who have been in Iran from entering Australia for 14 days.

Four new virus cases were confirmed on the weekend involving people who had returned to Australia from Iran, before the ban was imposed.

While the virus has also rapidly spread across Italy and South Korea, there are no plans to extend the travel ban to countries other than Iran and China.

“Not at the moment, but as I say we’re meeting every day, and will review as things progress,” Professor Kelly said.

NSW Health confirmed the state’s fifth and six cases after a man in his 40s and a woman in her 50s returned separately to Sydney from Iran.

The woman flew back to Sydney via Qatar, arriving on Sunday February 23 on Qatar Airways Flight QR 908.

She developed symptoms the following day and her illness was confirmed on February 29.

The man diagnosed with COVID-19 arrived in Sydney from Iran on February 22 but did not show any symptoms until two days later and was taken to hospital.

Authorities are asking anyone on the flights to seek an immediate health assessment if they develop any flu-like symptoms.

Meanwhile, new cases in Victoria and Queensland were also people who had travelled from Iran.

A Victorian woman was confirmed as testing positive on Sunday after landing in Melbourne on Friday.

In Queensland, a 63-year-old Gold Coast beautician was confirmed as having the virus on Saturday after she arrived on Monday a week ago.

The government is also considering an update to its current travel advice for Italy, where the coronavirus has impacted Lombardy in the country’s north.

Coronavirus cases have surged in Italy, while France has closed the Louvre Museum as the number of countries hit by the coronavirus climbed past 60.

Italian authorities have announced the number of people infected with coronavirus in the country soared 50 per cent to 1694 in 24 hours.

Another five infected people in Italy have died, bringing the number of deaths there to 34.

France raised its number of reported cases to 130, an increase of 30 from the day before, and said there had been two deaths from the virus.

It came as the archbishop of Paris told parish priests to put the Communion bread in worshippers’ hands, not in their mouths.

And the Louvre closed after workers who guard the Mona Lisa and other priceless artworks expressed fear of being contaminated by the stream of visitors from around the world.

Panic-buying of daily necessities emerged in Japan. Tourist sites across Asia, Europe and the Middle East were deserted, while governments closed schools and banned big gatherings.

-AAP

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