Leigh Journal Column - Delighted we can lift lockdown one step at a time

IN just a few short weeks, our town centres and high streets have undergone a remarkable transformation.

It wasn’t that long ago that our streets were empty, our market stalls were closed as well as many local businesses in shutdown – that has now changed significantly.

There is no doubt that this coronavirus pandemic has had a profound effect on our local economy and I understand the many frustrations of local business owners and entrepreneurs.

This is why I am delighted that we are starting to carefully lift this lockdown one step at a time in order to recover from this crisis.

The latest scientific evidence supports this lift of lockdown restrictions – the daily figure for deaths has been consistently falling.

This shows how much progress has been made since the peak but also just how challenging the situation still is.

However, the single most important achievement over the last few weeks and months is that we have ensured that the NHS has coped and has maintained its ability to treat and care for us.

June 15 was a significant milestone, churches and other places of worship have started to reopen to provide spiritual welfare for residents.

In addition, zoos and safari parks have also been permitted to reopen their gates, I am sure that many families in the local area will be delighted with this news.

However, the most significant change has been the reopening of our high streets which are now back in business.

I know that many of our fantastic local businesses have been working hard behind the scenes to ensure that customers can shop safely.

Our retailers have demonstrated resilience and patience during this outbreak – it is now time we support them by spending and indeed contributing to our local economy.

My friend and colleague, James Grundy MP, has championed the cause of local enterprise by working for the reopening of food stalls at the Leigh Market.

Both James and I understand the challenges facing our market traders and I am glad to see that they are now back up and running to serve our local community.

The next step in our recovery undoubtedly concerns our hospitality sector.

Some of our local restaurants, pubs and cafes have expressed deep concerns that the current social distancing guidelines will make it impossible to reopen in the same way retail has.

That is why I have been raising this question in Parliament to consider a reduction from six foot to three foot, with an eventual phasing out of social distancing all together.

This will enable our local pubs, restaurants and businesses to bounce back from the economic challenges the virus has created and once again allow the community to come together.

Lockdown has been difficult but we are winning and normality is returning so I just hope that some of the wonderful warm weather we have been enjoying will carry over to our summer holidays.