ARE we now on the road to recovery?

With the Greater Manchester positive test rate dipping for the first time since August, our local Covid-19 figures going down even faster and the economy rebounding, we should be.

We should be but, I fear, that it is going to be rather a long road and we are going to find a great many potholes along the way.

Every week that goes by produces more figures related to the impact of Covid-19 and the associated lockdown.

Whilst we now hear that the economy has sprung back with a growth rate of fifteen percent, we also know that it is still far below its former strength and recovery is flattening out.

The lockdown recession is now revealing the consequences that I long feared with a massive growth of unemployment.

Over the last few years, our employers and job centres here have done such amazing work in cutting unemployment numbers and giving so many people the opportunity to earn a living and pay their way.

The lockdown has undone some but not all that good work.

I am worried that dragging out the current national lockdown or too severe a tiering system afterwards will stop any further recovery in its tracks.

In my constituency, unemployment has almost doubled, and youth unemployment has more than doubled.

This will be replicated all around the country and means that so many people will be suffering the impact of worklessness.

It also has an impact on families and our communities.

Our high streets in Atherton and Leigh will be doing less well in trade just because of unemployment as well as having to cope with the Covid-19 lockdown on top.

Many large firms have been making job cuts, but I fear that smaller and family run businesses have suffered more.

As individual businesses, they do not make the headlines, but the impact should still be understood.

The increase in youth unemployment shows that, as pupils leave school, they are not finding that first job.

This is so damaging because that is the time when they mature and get the experience and skills that can set them up for the rest of their lives.

Our recent economic bounce back has not yet restored their jobs and it is going to take time and a period of stability before it will happen.

If we have yet another phase of extreme lockdown measures, then it will push back our recovery and the opportunities for younger workers.

Perhaps even more businesses will call time and just not reopen.

I am working with colleagues in Parliament to find an alternative and sustainable way to live with Covid-19.

The first thing to do is to understand the impact of the Covid-19 lockdown, whether this is on jobs, education, physical and mental health as well as civil liberties.

Evidence is being amassed to say that this national lockdown should not be extended and should be the last.

It is time to get on the road to recovery.