How Leeds is bouncing back from lockdown - one small step a time - Laura Collins, YEP Editor
For months the city centre has snoozed in a state of hibernation after businesses were forced to close their doors to customers for the third time in a string of national lockdowns.
It would be an understatement to say the impact of three national lockdowns have left its own scars on the physical composition of our city centre.
We have sadly seen many casualties of the pandemic over the last year, from small independents closing their doors to familiar chains disappearing from the high street altogether.
And it is not just the physical make-up of the high street that has changed but the number of visitors has also reduced dramatically.
Workers have swapped their office blocks for their spare bedrooms after the Government ordered people to work from home where possible.
With this comes the disappearance of lunch time and after work trade from those who come in and out of the centre on a daily basis.
But today marks a new era as non-essential retailers and outdoor hospitality venues are able to reopen and the tills will ring for the first time this year.
The easing has been hailed as a “huge step” towards the recovery to the Leeds economy following the previous two national lockdowns.
But there is still a note of caution about what challenges will still remain for many businesses who need continued financial support as they are still reeling from the financial impact of three national lockdowns.
While some retailers will be celebrating their reopening today there are those who must wait a little longer who are still fighting to survive.
And of course they will be watching to see whether people are still willing to put their hands in their pockets to support local businesses after consumer habits have changed.
Meanwhile hair salons have been inundated with phone calls as clients clamour for places after going months without a cut or colour.
But underpinning this latest stage of easing away from lockdown will be confidence.
And that is where we all have a part to play to make sure that we not only keep ourselves safe and those around us too.
There will be those celebrating as they head out for their first pint in a beer garden today but there will undoubtedly be others who are a little more tentative.
For some they will need their confidence building – not just from the businesses they visit – but also from those around them making sure they are obeying rules about social distancing.
Behaviours have changed so it is important that we continue to take this one small step at a time to ensure that we don’t end up going back to square one once again. The last thing anybody wants is another lockdown.
And it is that spirit of collaboration that will be vital to ensure the bounce back of our city centre.
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