Five more elderly Australians have died of the coronavirus, including another passenger from the ill-fated Ruby Princess cruise ship.
NSW chief medical officer Dr Kerry Chant said on Tuesday morning a woman, 87, had died and a man, 90, who had been living at the Opal aged-care facility in Bankstown in western Sydney, had also died.
On Tuesday afternoon, an elderly Tasmanian man in his 80s died in the state’s North West Regional Hospital.
His death brought to 13 the number of passengers from the Ruby Princess who have lost their lives to COVID-19. The ship is also linked to at least 622 COVID-19 cases.
In Victoria, Premier Daniel Andrews announced another person had died overnight. South Australia also recorded its first death, of a man aged 75.
SA’s chief public health officer Nicola Spurrier said it was believed he also had some underlying health issues.
She said the death emphasised just how serious the virus could be.
“This is not just a statistic, it’s a person who has been a real integral part of a family,” she said.
“A very much beloved, father, husband and possibly grandfather as well.”
It brings the total number of COVID-19 deaths in Australia to 46. NSW has 2686 cases and 21 deaths, while Victoria has 1191 cases and 11 dead – they are the two states with the highest number of confirmed cases.
The Ruby Princess cruise ship is still docked in Port Kembla, near Wollongong. It is expected to stay there for 10 days while its 1040 crew members have medical assessments, treatment or emergency extractions.
About 200 have symptoms of coronavirus.
The NSW Police homicide squad is investigating why passengers were allowed to disembark from the ship in Sydney on March 19 despite concerns some might have contracted the illness.
NSW Police Commissioner Mick Fuller on Tuesday told ABC Radio the investigation wouldn’t be rushed, saying “I just need to make sure I get the right outcome”.
“There is global attention. Do we rush it for some political win or do we do the proper job that we should do, which is a criminal investigation into what will be a complex matter with lots of witnesses?”
NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian said the number of new cases in the state continued to “stabilise and even decline” but said social distancing was the “new way of life” until a vaccine was developed.
“For the first time in a long time, every scientist on the planet is working towards a vaccine, working towards a cure, and, of course, we want NSW to be part of that story,” Ms Berejiklian said.
“We want our best and brightest in NSW and across Australia working their guts out to make sure that we find a vaccine as soon as possible.
“Because the reality is that until we find a vaccine, we all have to live with this virus.
“And no matter what restrictions there are in the future, no matter what restrictions are potentially eased in the future, until a vaccine is found, social distancing is a way of life now.”
Mr Andrews said that by staying at home, it was “delivering results that are so much better than so many other parts of the world that are gripped by unbearable tragedy”
“As they see so many cases, their hospital system is then overwhelmed, and we see some of those shocking scenes, those wicked scenes in places like New York,” he said on Tuesday.