An elderly man has become the second person to die from COVID-19 in the Australian state of Tasmania, with both of the cases linked to travel on the Ruby Princess cruise ship.
A man in his 80s died at the Royal Hobart Hospital overnight taking the national COVID-19 toll to 19, Premier Peter Gutwein said on Tuesday morning.
It comes after a woman, also in her 80s, died in the state’s northwest on Monday.
“This is a very sad time. It serves as a warning to us all that these are going to be tough and difficult times,” Gutwein said.
Health Minister Sarah Courtney confirmed both deaths were “associated with travel” on the Ruby Princess, which has been a major source of virus spread in Australia since infected passengers were allowed off the ship in Sydney without adequate checks.
The elderly man had been a passenger on the ship, Public Health Director Mark Veitch said.
The state’s number of virus cases grew to 69 on Monday night after three women tested positive.
One of the women is a close contact of a known case, another recently arrived from overseas and the third recently travelled aboard a cruise ship.
Ten people have recovered from the Chinese Communist Party virus.
Authorities have stepped up efforts to find the source of two cases, a healthcare worker and woman in her 20s, at Devonport in the state’s northwest.
Dr. Veitch hasn’t ruled out community transmission and hoped more would be known in coming days.
“Both of them had contact with people from overseas and interstate within Tasmania,” he said.
“It’s always possible infection was acquired from one of these sources rather than within the community.”
Tasmania has yet to record evidence of community transmission.
About 90 rooms at state-government-controlled hotels are filled with people in quarantine.
Gutwein implored people to follow strict social gathering guidelines and stay home, threatening arrests and fines for those who don’t follow the national two-person order.
“Social distancing and abiding by the rules will save your life, it will save your family’s lives, it will save lives in our community,” he said.
By Ethan James