March 8, 2020 / 2:36 AM / 22 days ago

Australia ramps up epidemic preparation as third man dies of coronavirus

SYDNEY (Reuters) - A man in his 80s died in a Sydney hospital after testing positive to COVID-19, becoming the third coronavirus-related casualty in Australia, state health authorities said on Sunday.

Small toy figures are seen in front of the coronavirus sign in this illustrations taken February 7, 2020. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration

The total number of coronavirus cases now stands at 74 in the country, with state and federal health authorities fretting over the risk of more widespread community transmission.

The outbreak has killed more than 3,400 people worldwide, spreading across more than 90 nations outside China, where it originated.

New South Wales Health said in a statement, it was “continuing to find and respond to cases as they are diagnosed to slow any spread of COVID-19 in the community.”

Federal Minister for Health Greg Hunt said on Sunday the government has secured an additional 54 million face masks to help protect medical workers.

The masks are scheduled to arrive in Australia between now and the end of April, Hunt added.

On Saturday, the government released an extra 260,000 surgical masks from federal stockpile to primary health networks.

“These are for medical services personnel,” said Hunt.

“As we believe that they are required we’ll be distributing them through the primary health network. And if any other mechanisms are required, we’ll do that.”

Hunt also called for calm in the community, saying some people have not been their “best selves”, referring to hoarders who have emptied supermarket shelves in recent days.

New South Wales state premier added her weight too, urging people to be “rational”.

“We have everything we need. Nobody needs to fear of running out of anything,” she said.

The calls come as the New South Wales state police on Sunday charged two Sydney women involved in a violent brawl over toilet rolls at a supermarket in Sydney’s south-west.

Reporting by Swati Pandey; Editing by Daniel Wallis and Christopher Cushing

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