By Jane Wardell
SYDNEY (Reuters) – 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 its earlier exposure to the outbreak.
The 100th fatality was a 93-year-old woman from a care home outside Sydney, the origin of 19 deaths, media reported.
Australian officials have credited a decision in early March to close borders and restrict internal movements with keeping 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 25 million population.
Australia reported its first coronavirus case on Jan. 25, weeks after China, the epicentre of the outbreak, recorded the first infections.
The rate of new daily infections in Australia 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 coronavirus mortality rate is 1.4%, compared with about 6% for the United States where about 9,000 people have died, 14% for Britain and Italy and 15% for France.
One of the few countries to provide detailed data on the progression of cases beyond death statistics, Australia’s recovery rate stands at just over 90%.
Officials have urged the public to remain vigilant about social distancing as restrictions are eased. The border remains closed and domestic travel is curtailed.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison is hoping to remove most restrictions within three months to boost an economy facing its biggest contraction on record.
The majority of Australia’s deaths were people aged 70 and over while the youngest 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 source of infection with almost 700 passengers testing positive.
(Graphic: Tracking and explaining the new coronavirus – https://graphics.reuters.com/HEALTH-CORONAVIRUS/COUNTRIES/oakveqlyvrd/index.html?id=australia)
(Reporting By Jane Wardell; Editing by Richard Pullin)