The lockdown restrictions have been tough for everybody, but particularly here in Greater Manchester. Even as most of the rest of the country was starting to unlock last Summer, we were placed under local restrictions. It seemed like every few weeks these were tightened more and more, and it was sometimes hard to keep track of what the Government would or wouldn’t allow here.

Thankfully, we’re now starting to see the signs of life starting to return to normal. We’ve seen people braving all sorts of weather to be able to sit in a beer garden with friends and queues around the block to get rid of our lockdown hair. With the vaccine roll-out going extremely well – and I’d like to thank Tameside Council and our local CCG for their fantastic work on this – we seem to be on course to stick to the road map for unlocking, which should see the vast majority of measures stopped by the summer.

Whilst we might be looking at holidays in Morecambe rather than Malaga this year, regaining freedom and normality will be welcome for everybody. In particular, being able to spend time with friends, family and colleagues that we haven’t been able to see for well over a year is priceless.

However, whilst not wanting to be a party pooper, I think it is essential that we take things carefully. COVID-19 is still out there in the community, people are still getting very ill and unfortunately people are still dying. Whilst the vaccine has been an absolute game-changer here as with everywhere else in the country, infections in Tameside are still above the national average at time of writing, at around 50 cases per 100,000 people.

So whilst we should all enjoy the freedoms that are being restored, it’s still important to do so in a sensible way and keep to the rules. The last thing we need here is to be plunged back into any kind of local restrictions. Not only is it important for our mental and physical health that we avoid another lockdown, our local businesses – particularly those in hospitality – are relying on it.

I am confident, though, that people in Tameside will by-and-large stick to the rules as restrictions lift. This, combined with the brilliant vaccine programme here, should mean that we see the back of the vast majority of restrictions over the next few months. I, for one, can’t wait!

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