Big day - but the champagne remains on ice

Drinkers are finally able to escape the drizzle and enjoy a tipple indoors 

Drinkers are finally able to escape the drizzle and enjoy a tipple indoors - Credit: PA

Business and politics editor Richard Porritt welcomes the easing of restrictions but warns against complacency 

Another step back to normal has arrived.

And the relief from East Anglia's hospitality sector is palpable.

But the end remains some way off - and the fear that we are not yet out of the woods looms large. 

This region relies heavily on leisure and hospitality. But the success of that industry is inextricably linked to human contact and travel. 

The past 15 months have been grim.

If it had not have been for large, state intervention the doors of restaurants and pubs that are finally being flung open again might never have been unlocked. 

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But amid the celebrations of a tentative step in the right direct is concern that new variants could dump us all back at square one. 

There is a responsibility on all of us now to protect the freedoms we have won back. 

As soon as you can, get the jab. Stay safe - masks and social distancing must remain for now. Treat yourself - have a meal, go to the cinema, take the kids out. 

And there also remains a responsibility on government. 

Many businesses which are now finally able to trade again have been helped by taxpayers' money. And what better use of the public purse than to protect jobs and livelihoods? 

The Covid debt will take many years to pay back. And there is a decent argument that the government will have to pile it even higher by the autumn.

A jobs cliff edge must be avoided. Of course, at some stage the economy's stabilisers need to come off. But stumbling straight from a pandemic into an employment crisis will elongate the pain of Covid. 

Difficult decisions are ahead. And the most difficult may well be whether we fully unlock on June 21. 

Everybody wants to get back to normal. Whether it's just so they can go about their lives as they used to or whether their business depends upon it. 

These decisions have to be led by the data. Everything within the government's power to ensure we can be truly free by the summer must be done.

But the very last thing the East of England's battered economy needs is slipping back into another lockdown. Businesses that have struggled through so far will die. 

So caution, with a touch of excitement, must be the order of the day. 

And every one of us has our part to play.  


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