THE Nationals Member for Eastern Victoria Region, Melina Bath, is calling for regional restrictions to be eased with the commencement of the new school term so Gippsland can get back in business.

Ms Bath said with schools returning to onsite learning next week and low case numbers in regional Victoria, it was time Premier Daniel Andrews removed the “shackles” and gave Gippsland the green light to move forward safely.

“Forcing regional communities like Gippsland to wait until there is zero cases state-wide for 14 days before ease restrictions further is wrong – this milestone is potentially weeks, if not a number of months away,” Ms Bath said.

“Gippsland is coronavirus free, our community deserves relief from the Premier’s crippling coronavirus restrictions after the enormous effort undertaken.

“Instead of holding the livelihoods of people and business owners to ransom, Daniel Andrews should reward and protect Gippslanders by beefing up border protections.”

Ms Bath said there was legitimate concern about the wide-reaching economic damage and social discourse Daniel Andrews’ roadmap was inflicting.

“Gippslanders deserve a fair go at living a COVID-safe life with sensible restrictions which reflect the risk level.

“Gippslanders overwhelmingly complied with health orders to combat the second wave of coronavirus caused by Labor’s bungled hotel quarantine program which resulted in over 768 deaths.

“Daniel Andrews has lost sight of the wellbeing of our community and regional economy, openly admitting his restrictions extend beyond the professional medical advice.

“Gippsland businesses are being denied from operating, and friends and families can’t properly visit [at] all because Daniel Andrews has decided it’s a good idea to make regional Victoria wait for Melbourne.”

Ms Bath said the Premier’s mandatory face mask direction had also become a contentious rule.

“Forcing Gippslanders to wear masks when there is zero cases and zero community transmission is impractical and unjustified.

“Many Gippslanders don’t have an issue wearing masks when social distancing is difficult, but during outdoor activity where physical distancing is easily achievable, their use is redundant.

“Recognising many Gippslanders are suffering from COVID fatigue, the Premier risks losing compliance with the rules if he continues to force unreasonable restrictions upon the community.

“It’s time Daniel Andrews removed Gippsland’s shackles by ceasing his excessive control over people’s livelihoods and business operations,” Ms Bath said.