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:
— India’s total number of coronavirus cases since the pandemic began has crossed 9 million. Nevertheless the country’s new daily cases have seen a steady decline for weeks now. The Health Ministry reported 45,882 new infections and 584 fatalities in the past 24 hours on Friday. The death toll since the pandemic began is more than 132,000. Authorities in capital New Delhi are fighting to head off nearly 7,500 new cases a day while ensuring that the flagging economy doesn’t capsize again.
— 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.
— Hong Kong has suspended in-person classes for lower primary school students after the city’s top health official said the coronavirus situation in the city was rapidly deteriorating. Classes for primary 1 to 3 students will be suspended for two weeks from Monday. The suspension comes just over a week after kindergartens were ordered to close following an outbreak of upper respiratory tract infections. Hong Kong confirmed 26 new coronavirus infections on Friday, 21 of which are local cases. “I would appeal to people to stop all unnecessary gathering activities because the situation is severe now in Hong Kong,” Hong Kong health minister Sophia Chan said.
— Authorities in China’s northern city of Tianjin have sealed off a hospital, a residential compound and a kindergarten after the city found four new local cases of the coronavirus Friday. Three of the confirmed cases were a set of parents and their son. The fourth was an individual who worked in the same residential compound. On Tuesday, the city had found a COVID-19 case in the same residential compound, bringing the total to five confirmed cases. China does not count asymptomatic patients as confirmed cases. Health authorities said they are sealing off the entire residential compound and classifying the area as high-risk. They’ve also sealed off the hospital where one of the patients went for his diagnosis and the kindergarten that the granddaughter of one patient attends. Parents and teachers of the kindergarten are being quarantined at home.