A report on the ABC News website suggests as coronavirus spreads across Australia, it won't affect each place evenly — some populations are more vulnerable than others. In particular, non-metropolitan areas along the east coast would be among the most at risk.

screenshot www.abc.net.au 2020.04.01 10 07 26 320pxTasmania also has significantly higher concentrations of the health problems linked to COVID-19 deaths, according to the Australian National University's (ANU) Centre for Social Research and Methods.

The centre recently developed a health index for Catholic Social Services Australia, which wanted to understand in which electorates its help was most needed.

The areas of greatest health disadvantage are not necessarily the poorest regions, though having wealth helps.

Instead, higher risks align most closely with older populations. "That tends to mean rural areas and coastal areas," Associate professor Ben Phillips  said.

One exception is the Northern Territory. Its population is young but it includes many remote Aboriginal communities, which tend to have higher rates of chronic diseases.

Meanwhile, Sydneysiders, who live in the epicentre of the coronavirus outbreak in Australia, face relatively low health risks.

"The western suburbs might not be economically advantaged but [its residents] don't tend to be that old," Dr Phillips said.

The population in regional Australia might be older and more at risk, but how likely is coronavirus to spread into these more sparsely populated parts of the country?

Professor Ross Andrews, an infectious diseases epidemiologist at the ANU, offered a grim prognosis.

"Based on what's happening in the rest of the world, at the moment you'd have to say — it'll get there," he said.