Coronavirus updates LIVE: Victoria-NSW border reopens; Mandatory mask-wearing outdoors in Victoria scrapped; Calls grow for dedicated regional quarantine hotels

Mass COVID-19 vaccination gets a dry run in a Louisiana parking lot

A COVID-19 vaccine may be months from reaching millions of Americans. Getting all those shots into arms will be a monumental task. Shreveport, Louisiana, is getting ready now.

The city recently completed a test run, one of about a dozen across the state. Health officials there organised the community's first-ever drive-thu flu shot clinic in the massive parking lot of the Louisiana state fairgrounds.

Drivers rolled down their windows and rolled up their sleeves as they pulled up to tents for the largest vaccination event the regional health department has ever hosted. Cheerful and fast-working nurses jabbed them with vaccines.

Healthcare workers administer a flu shot during a drive-thru clinic at the Louisiana State Fairgrounds in Shreveport, Louisiana, US.Credit:Bloomberg

Within about five minutes, people were on their way, exiting the parking lot while passing a row of food stands selling corn dogs, roasted nuts and lemonade.

In the near future, that's just the way officials hope it will go for a COVID-19 vaccine. A poor state that's seen its share of hurricanes, floods and tornadoes, Louisiana is trying to get out front of the challenge.

The state's health department decided early on to run test clinics in each of its nine public-health regions, using this winter's flu shot as practice to eventually distribute millions of COVID-19 vaccine doses.

"Unlike with testing, we have the luxury to have four to five months to plan," said Frank Welch, a doctor who is Louisiana's immunisation director. AP

Read more here.

Victoria unmasked, a summer of possibilities looms

Victorians have been promised a summer that seemed impossible a few months ago, with family gatherings, travel, in-store Christmas shopping and the ability to remove masks in public now permitted after 23 days without a new coronavirus infection.

Premier Daniel Andrews announced widespread changes to coronavirus restrictions in the state on Sunday that included the scrapping of a requirement for masks to be worn outdoors when physical distancing is possible, which comes into effect at 11.59pm Sunday.

And while there will be no crowds at Carols by Candlelight and no New Year's Eve fireworks display, holiday gatherings of family and friends will resemble pre-pandemic times, with a new cap of 15 visitors to a home on a single day set to be lifted to 30 people at 11.59pm on December 13, in time for Christmas and part-way through Hanukkah celebrations.

"[The latest coronavirus numbers] are a testament to the character and the conviction and the amazing job that every single Victorian has done this year," Mr Andrews said.

"Each of us playing our part to make sure that we protect public health, that we value and protect this precious thing that we have built … It's incredibly valuable, but it is fragile. And even though these rules are important changes, this virus is not gone."

Read more here.

First Melbourne flight lands in Sydney

The first flight from Melbourne has landed in Sydney since NSW lifted border restrictions with Victoria overnight.

Qantas flight QF 404 touched down at Sydney Airport at 7.17am, three minutes ahead of schedule. NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian said yesterday she was feeling confident about the reopening of the border at midnight.

"I’m confident that certainly the risk that was there when we closed the borders doesn’t exist," she said.

Sydney Airport lists 26 scheduled flights arriving from Melbourne today, up from just a handful a day since July.

Qantas chief executive Alan Joyce said the easing restrictions was "very big" for the tourism industry.

"We still have a long way to go to get back to those 45 return flights that we had before, but we’re going to be carrying 4500 people today," Mr Joyce said.

Travel between the two largest states has been restricted for 138 days since NSW closed its Victorian border at 12.01am on July 8.

Good morning!

We're back on this rainy Melbourne morning with another special edition of the national coronavirus blog. Sadly, it's a one-off (or two-off(!) given my colleagues Rachael Dexter and Simone Fox Koob brought you all the news on Victoria’s easing of restrictions yesterday) but as we have said before, we will run the blogs from time to time as necessary.

And today feels like a milestone day. Planes are flying again between NSW and Victoria, while the border crossings will fully reopen. Masks will no longer be mandatory for Victorians in uncrowded outdoor settings. And Christmas appears to be back on.

We'll bring you all the news throughout the day. Get in touch if you have any news tips, via email or Twitter.

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