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Asia Today: Australia's Victoria hits 3 weeks without virus

MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) — Australia’s once hard-hit state of Victoria has gone three weeks without a new COVID-19 case for the first time since February.

There are two just active coronavirus cases remaining across Victoria, according to figures released by the health department on Friday.

And after having other states in Australia shut their borders to Victoria, the state has decided to close its border with neighboring South Australia, which is experiencing a new spike in cases.

Victoria went through a prolonged surge of the virus that saw the city of Melbourne locked down, overnight curfews imposed and bans on family gatherings and extended travel outside the city.

Australia has had 907 coronavirus deaths, but 819 have occurred in Victoria.

Friday's milestone came as Victoria established a “hard border” with South Australia that will allow only emergency or medical cases and truck drivers carrying freight to pass through. It is the first time Victoria has shut its border to any state.

South Australia was into its second day of a six-day lockdown on Friday to circumvent a potential new surge of its own.

A cluster of infections in a northern suburb of the capital city of Adelaide has seen more than 20 cases.

South Australia Premier Steven Marshall said the state had learned from watching Victoria and other parts of the world.

“COVID-19 is very difficult to eradicate once it gets a foothold in a community,” Marshall said. “So we need this circuit-breaker, this breathing space for a contact tracing blitz.”

In other developments in the Asia-Pacific region:

— South Korea’s prime minister has urged the public to avoid social gatherings and stay at home as much as possible as the country registered more than 300 new virus cases for a third consecutive day. The Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency said Friday the 363 cases reported in the past 24 hours took the country’s total to 30,017 with 501 deaths since the pandemic began. South Korea’s caseload has been on a steady rise after it relaxed its physical distancing rules last month. Prime Minister Chung Sye-kyun on Friday asked people to minimize year-end parties and gatherings and called on businesses to let their employees work from home. Local authorities on Thursday toughened distancing guidelines in the greater Seoul area, the southern city of Gwangju and some parts in the eastern Gangwon province

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