By Jane Wardell – Japan Today
Australia’s death toll from the novel coronavirus reached 100 on Tuesday, according to a Reuters tally of official data, a fatality rate much lower than in North America and Europe despite the Pacific country’s earlier exposure to the pandemic.
The 100th recorded death was a 93-year-old woman who was a resident at an aged care home outside of Sydney, which was responsible for a cluster of cases, local media reported.
Australian officials have credited moves in early March to close the country’s borders and restrict internal public movement with keeping the spread of the disease relatively contained.
A three-step government plan to unwind lockdown measures is under way. Widespread testing has detected just over 7,000 cases among the country’s 25 million population.
Australia reported its first cases of COVID-19 on Jan 25, just a couple of weeks after China, the epicenter of the outbreak, recorded the first infections.
The rate of new daily infections peaked on March 23 with 430 cases, according to the Reuters tally. New cases have averaged about 15 a day over the past week.
Australia’s mortality rate for those with the disease is just 1%, compared with 6% for the United States where around 89,000 people have died, 14% for the United Kingdom and Italy and 15% for France.
One of the few countries to provide detailed data on the progression of the reported cases beyond death statistics, Australia’s recovery rate stands at just over 90%.
Officials have urged Australians to remain vigilant about maintaining personal distance in public as mobility restrictions are eased around the country. International borders remain closed and domestic travel is also curtailed.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison is hoping to remove most of the restrictions within three months in an attempt to boost the economy, which is facing its biggest contraction on record.
The vast majority of Australia’s deaths were people aged 70 and over. More than 10% were linked to the Newmarch aged care home outside Sydney. The youngest victim was a man in his 40s.
Just under a third of deaths were linked to a cruise ship, Carnival Corp’s Ruby Princess, which was also the country’s biggest single source of infection after almost 700 passengers tested positive for COVID-19.
The Ruby Princess became a flashpoint of public anger after local authorities granted it permission to disembark its 2,700 passengers in Sydney in March without health checks.
Australian police opened a homicide investigation into the incident, seizing the ship’s “black box” during a subsequent inspection of the ship, which has since been permitted to leave the country.