NATIONALS MPs say regional Victoria must be granted its ‘Freedom Day’, by being able to reopen safely sooner, with vaccine targets achieved ahead of metropolitan Melbourne.

Under the state government’s roadmap, regional Victoria will be forced to wait weeks for metropolitan Melbourne to catch up and have the shackles of restrictions removed, MPs said.

Leader of The Nationals, Peter Walsh, said country communities have had their lives turned upside down by a “draconian Premier who has forced them to live under unnecessary harsh restrictions because of metropolitan outbreaks”.

“COVID restrictions must lift in all country areas when the 80 per cent double vaccination rate is achieved so family events, such as weddings and funerals, can proceed with confidence.

“There has been so much disappointment experienced in funeral and weddings sectors throughout the pandemic with many families unjustifiably stopped from grieving or celebrating significant events.

“It’s diabolical for families to be forced to restrict guests or uninvite loved ones from funerals and weddings due to metropolitan Melbourne’s slow vaccination rates – it’s inhumane and cruel.

“We’ve seen brides and grooms forced to change the date multiple times, with some weddings devastatingly stopped on the day with only a couple of hours’ notice.”

Mr Walsh said regional Victorians had overwhelmingly rolled up their sleeves and led the way out of Victoria’s COVID crisis, adding the state government “must reward effort and let country people get on with their lives”.

“The 80 per cent double dose milestone in regional Victoria must be the trigger for ‘Freedom Day’ in country communities.

“Frustration continues to grow as it becomes clearer that the rules are being driven by political focus groups, not health advice.

“Holding back lives and the economic recovery in regional Victoria makes zero sense.”

The Nationals Member for Eastern Victoria Region, Melina Bath, said regional Victoria must be granted the freedom to move to the next phase as soon as the 80 per cent double dose milestone is reached.

“For Daniel Andrews to force regional Victoria to wait until the city catches up is inherently wrong,” Ms Bath said.

“Lockdowns have impacted all aspects of our lives, community and economy – it’s time to begin the process of rebuilding and recovery.

“The Andrews government must start by removing unnecessary COVID restrictions for the events sector so weddings and funerals can be planned with a level of certainty.”