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Doctor who cared for Australia's first COVID-19 fatality opens up as national death toll hits 100

Doctor who cared for Australia's first COVID-19 fatality opens up as national death toll hits 100

A respiratory physician who treated Australia’s first recorded coronavirus fatality has spoken up about her experience as the national death toll reaches 100.

Respiratory doctor Fiona Lake treated 78-year-old James Kwan, who was a passenger on the Diamond Princess cruise ship.

Kwan died at Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital in Perth on March 1.

“The thing about this virus is that people can deteriorate quite late between days five and ten of the illness, so you are looking after them, but expecting they may get worse later on,” Dr Lake told SBS News.

“He didn’t have any complaints when he came into the hospital, we could see that his lungs weren’t working normally, but only very late in the course of the illness did he have problems such as shortness of breath, at which stage he was in quite severe respiratory failure.”

Kwan’s wife Theresa, who was recovering from COVID-19 at the same hospital, was not allowed to be by his side.

“The difficulty with the infectious nature of COVID is that puts the rest of the family at risk, so even when people are dying we are behind screens, windows and things like that,” Dr Lake said.

Kwan was a tourism business operator and founder of WA-based inbound travel agent Wel-Travel.

He was noted for his work in developing tourism to Australia from many Asian markets, the ABC reported.

“He had a really innovative mind, very hardworking, but very pleasant man to work with as well,” Australian Tourism Export Council managing director Peter Shelley told the outlet.

“James was always willing to share his knowledge and help others in the industry grow, [and] often mentored young and aspiring members of the tourism industry.”