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Asia Today: Australia to spend on vaccines for wider region

Australia has announced it will spend 500 million Australian dollars ($351 million) to secure COVID-19 vaccines for the Pacific and Southeast Asia “as part of a shared recovery for our region from the pandemic.”

The government said it would use a range of advance purchase agreements with manufacturers via the global COVAX Facility plan, which aims to ensure virus vaccines are shared with all nations.

“We are committing an additional AU$500 million over three years towards this effort,” it said. “The funding will further help ensure that the countries of the Pacific and East Timor are able to achieve full immunization coverage, and will make a significant contribution toward meeting the needs of southeast Asia.

Hygienic and anti-epidemic officials disinfect and check the temperature of people outside the entrance to Songdowon General Foodstuff Factory in the city of Wonsan, Kangwon Province, North Korea DPRK, on Wednesday, Oct., 28, 2020. (AP PhotoJon Chol Jin)

“A fast, safe vaccine rollout ... will mean we are able to return to more normal travel, tourism and trade with our key partners in the region.”

Meanwhile, officials in Victoria state reported just one new case of COVID-19 on Saturday as Melbourne residents head into a weekend of greater social freedom.

Figures from the state’s Health Department show an average of just 2.4 new cases per day for the past 14 days.

Hygienic and anti-epidemic officials checks the temperature of the people coming to the city of Wonsan, Kangwon Province, North Korea DPRK, on Wednesday, Oct., 28, 2020. (AP PhotoJon Chol Jin)

The easing of restrictions means families can visit each other at home. A 25-kilometer (15-mile) travel limit remains in place and outdoor gatherings are still capped at 10 people.

It will be an emotional weekend for many people who have been unable to see their families or close friends for months.

Victoria’s COVID-19 death toll stands at 819 and the national figure is 907.

Hygienic and anti-epidemic officials disinfect the walkway outside the entrance to Songdowon General Foodstuff Factory in the city of Wonsan, Kangwon Province, North Korea DPRK, on Wednesday, Oct., 28, 2020. (AP PhotoJon Chol Jin)

State premier Daniel Andrews did not face the media on Saturday, bringing his daily news conference marathon to an end. The state leader had held news conferences for 120 consecutive days starting on July 3.

Follow AP’s coronavirus pandemic coverage at https://apnews.com/VirusOutbreak and https://apnews.com/UnderstandingtheOutbreak

Hygienic and anti-epidemic officials disinfect the public walkway outside the Songdowon General Foodstuff Factory in the city of Wonsan, Kangwon Province, North Korea DPRK, on Wednesday, Oct., 28, 2020. (AP PhotoJon Chol Jin)

Hygienic and anti-epidemic officials disinfect and check the temperature of people coming into the city of Wonsan, Kangwon Province, North Korea DPRK, on Wednesday, Oct., 28, 2020. (AP PhotoJon Chol Jin)