Coronavirus: First Australian dies from COVID-19

A West Australian man has become the first person to die from the COVID-19 coronavirus in Australia.

The 78-year-old had been a passenger on the infected Diamond Princess cruise ship in Japan.

He had been removed to Perth's Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital where he was receiving treatment, however he died early on Sunday morning.

His wife, who is also infected, remains in isolation at a Perth hospital.

West Australia's chief health officer Andrew Robertson said the man had been isolated since he was diagnosed with COVID-19, and he was confident he hadn't spread the disease to the community.

"People should be aware but not alarmed at this stage," Robertson said.

On Saturday, an infectious diseases specialist warned COVID-19 could infect up to 40 percent of the world's population in the next couple of years.

Professor Michael Baker, from the Otago University Department of Public Health, said it will likely infect billions.

"This pandemic infection has had a trajectory now for three or four weeks that looks like it will infect perhaps 40 percent of the world's population over the next one to two years."

More than 50 countries have now reported cases with many like New Zealand just seeing it for the first time.

Just in the past few days, 24 cases have been exported from Italy to 14 different countries and 97 cases have been exported from Iran to 11 countries.

"The continued increase in the number of cases and the number of affected countries over the past few days are clearly of concern," said the World Health Organisation's Director-General Dr Tedros Ghebreyesus.

The United Nations says containment of the virus is possible but the window of opportunity is narrowing.