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Australia Confirms Its First Coronavirus Death After Perth Man Dies In Hospital

A Perth man is Australia's first coronavirus fatality, with authorities confirming the country's first death amid a rise in the number of cases nationwide.

The 78-year-old man died in an intensive care unit at Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital overnight, WA Health officials confirmed.

The man, who has not been named, is the first Australian to die from the virus.

He contracted the deadly virus while aboard the Diamond Princess ship and was flown to WA with his wife on Friday by the Royal Flying Doctor Service.

The man first appeared stable and had relatively mild symptoms, WA chief health officer Dr Andrew Robertson told reporters on Sunday.

The man’s 79-year-old wife has also tested positive for COVID-19 but is now in a stable condition, according to Dr Robertson.

The elderly couple were two of 164 Australians isolated on the Diamond Princess cruise ship in the Japanese port of Yokohama.

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"She (the man's wife) had the opportunity to talk to him prior to his death, but she's understandably quite upset. And I obviously ask that people respect their privacy," Robertson said.

"He was identified very early on, when he was on the flight back from the Diamond Princess, he was put in isolation, he was transferred to us, and obviously placed in isolation on arrival.

"He's been managed in isolation ever since… there's no risk to the general community or to staff."

He also warned the public to be "aware but not alarmed" and said people "should not be panicking at this stage".

Image: Getty

"We need to remind people... more than 80 per cent of the cases we expect to be mild, but some will be serious and may end up in our intensive care," Robertson said.

Officials are working to contain the coronavirus before Australia's flu season hits this July.

"We've been watching the developments of coronavirus around the world and the containment of the disease in China," Robertson added.

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"It is now spreading in a number of countries and we've realised that we will get community spread in Australia in the next three to six months and we obviously need to prepare for that."

The news comes after two further cases of coronavirus were confirmed in NSW and Victoria on Sunday.

There have been 25 confirmed cases in Australia, 11 of which have recovered.

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Prime Minister Scott Morrison said he was "saddened" to hear of the man's death, but reiterated his government's plan -- announced Friday -- to combat and contain the virus.

Morrison said Australia is "as prepared as any country can be and we will get through this."

Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt said it was with "great sadness" that he heard the Perth man died.

He noted the Morrison government had a national COVID-19 plan with health authorities across the country meeting daily to monitor the situation.

"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.

It comes as the government defends its decision to ban foreign visitors entering Australia from Iran to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, rather than South Korea which has a much higher level of cases.

Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton on Sunday said that of the 106 deaths that have been reported outside of China, 43 have been in Iran.

The new travel restrictions came in as NSW chief heath officer Kerry Chant on Sunday confirmed a fifth person in the state had contracted the virus, a man in his 40s who arrived in Sydney from Iran.

A 63-year-old Gold Coast beautician who returned to Australia from Iran on Monday, has also been diagnosed with the virus.

With AAP.

Contact Eden at egillespie@networkten.com.au and elyons@networkten.com.au