March 5, 2020 / 12:52 AM / a month ago

Australia reports second coronavirus death, warns of hit to economy

(Story was previously slugged HEALTH-CORONAVIRUS/AUSTRALIA-ECONOMY)

By Wayne Cole and Colin Packham

SYDNEY, March 5 (Reuters) - Australia recorded its second death from the coronavirus, the first from a “local transmission”, and warned on Thursday the crisis will subtract at least half a percentage point from the country’s economic growth in the current quarter.

The death of an elderly woman who contracted the disease from a worker at her aged care home took the number of infections in Australia to 52.

The majority of those cases are people who contracted the disease while onboard a Carnival Corp cruise ship travelling around Japan and were evacuated back to Australia for treatment.

However, concerns are growing that the illness may spread more rapidly as people in at least five of the confirmed cases contracted the virus locally.

It was too early to determine the long-term economic toll of coronavirus, Treasury Secretary Steven Kennedy said, but it will have have an immediate and significant impact.

“At this stage we expect the virus to detract at last half a percentage point from growth in the March quarter 2020,” Kennedy told a parliamentary committee in Canberra on Thursday.

The estimate is in line with that made by the Reserve Bank of Australia. Treasury had forecast GDP growth of 2.25% to end June 2020.

Reporting by Colin Packham and Wayne Cole; editing by Jane Wardell

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