Let's stick to the rules and keep the good times going as pubs and shops reopen - YEP says
The eerie quiet of a deserted Leeds city centre is a sight we have sadly become familiar with over the last year - but things are about to change once again.
As I stood on Briggate early on Monday morning, there was a hushed sense of excitement in the air.
Finally, non-essential retail and outdoor hospitality venues were allowed to reopen and staff began making their final preparations before flinging the doors open to an eager public.
Shop workers finished tidying up their storefronts, taking down lingering Christmas decorations and filling their windows with the promise of summer.
Bartenders and cafe owners burst outdoors, carrying an assortment of chairs and tables, keen to make the most of their public space and see their punters once again.
The eager early-risers queued patiently to get their shopping fix, while others bagged a spot in the sunshine for a coffee and a chat with a much-missed friend.
Soon the city centre was full of life once again, with queues snaking around Debenhams and Zara, and people excitedly taking that long-awaited first sip of beer in the town’s bustling beer gardens.
It felt like life was returning to the streets of Leeds.
Yet, among the excitement, there were constant reminders that things are not back to normal just yet.
Covid-19 marshals walked among the streets of Leeds, police cars parked up next to high street shops, keeping an eye on visitors and revellers as they passed by, and bright blue hand sanitising stations coloured the horizon.
Yes, lockdown restrictions are now gradually lifting.
But we still have a long way to go before life returns to how it was before the coronavirus pandemic in Leeds.
Though it may be tempting to rush back into the arms of our loved ones and gather with our friends for drinks and food, we have to make sure that we continue to follow the guidelines.
As difficult as that sounds, it is the only way to ensure that the good times we are heading towards continue, and that the plans we have waited so long to draw up are not now thwarted by rising Covid-19 cases and another round of national restrictions imposed by the Prime Minister.
The opportunity to see, drink, eat and laugh with people once again is a beacon of hope and light after months of darkness during lockdowns.
But we need to make sure we do not rush things.
We must follow the rules our wonderful shops, restaurants and pubs have put in place to keep us safe.
In doing so, we can all keep the good times going.