'Couldn't touch him': Aussie's tragic last moments before coronavirus death

Tom Flanagan
News Reporter

Friends have described the inseparable relationship an elderly Perth man had with his wife before his “tragic” death from coronavirus away from his family.

James Kwan, 78, became the first Australian to die from the virus after being evacuated alongside his wife, Theresa, from the Diamond Princess cruise ship, which they were on board with their son and his wife, The Australian reported.

They had been flown to Perth from the quarantine facility at Howard Springs near Darwin after displaying symptoms of the virus.

A close family friend told The Australian his death was “really tragic”.

James Kwan has been remembered as a pioneer in the tourism industry. Source: Nine Network

“James and Theresa were very much a hand-in-glove couple — wherever James was, Theresa was there to support him,” the friend said.

WA Premier Mark McGowan revealed Mr Kwan spent his final moments alone due to quarantine.

“It would have been awful, they couldn’t go in and touch him or hold his hand, it would have been so tragically sad,” Mr McGowan said.

In an emotional statement made from her own quarantined room after also contracting the virus, his wife paid tribute to her late husband.

“My husband passed away peacefully knowing that his family loved him,” she said.

Mr Kwan has been remembered as a pioneering travel agent, who helped revolutionise travel to Australia from Asia.

“He broke a lot of new ground in the inbound tourism area, moving into places like Malaysia, China and Indonesia early on. It’s partly on his shoulders that an industry dedicated to bringing in international tourists has grown,” Australian Tourism Export Council managing director Peter Shelley said.

Four new cases prompts Iran travel restrictions

Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt said the Morrison government has a national coronavirus plan with health authorities anticipating more cases.

"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.

Travel restrictions have been tightened further for inbound international travellers. Source: Getty

In a further effort to prevent the spread of the virus, the government announced on Saturday that foreign nationals who have been in Iran will be banned from entering Australia for 14 days.

Four new virus cases were confirmed on the weekend in people returning from Iran, before the ban was imposed.

NSW health authorities confirmed the state's fifth and six cases as a man in his 40s and a woman in her 50s who both returned to Sydney from Iran. The two cases are not connected, and they arrived on different days.

New cases in Victoria and Queensland also came from Iran.

A Victorian woman was confirmed as testing positive on Sunday after landing in Melbourne on Friday.

In Queensland, a 63-year-old Gold Coast beautician was confirmed as having the virus on Saturday after she arrived on Monday.

"We are particularly concerned about Iran at the moment,' Chief Medical Officer of Australia Professor Brendan Murphy said.

"It would seem to be the highest risk outside of China and cases from Iran have been exported to a number of countries."

On Thursday, Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced Australia will be treating the outbreak as a “global pandemic”.

However Australian World Health Organisation advisor and infection control expert Professor Mary Louise McLaw told Yahoo News Australia the nation was not yet at that stage.

There have been 28 confirmed cases in Australia.

With AAP

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