DUDLEY North MP Marco Longhi said today's news of a lockdown exit plan "will be welcomed by all".

Prime Minister Boris Johnson told MPs earlier today, ahead of a Downing Street press conference, that all Covid-19 restrictions could be lifted by June 21 as part of a four-stage plan.

The PM said he favoured a "cautious but also irreversible" approach to lifting lockdown restrictions as he announced a number of key dates when measures will begin to ease.

He told the public the country is "on a one-way road to freedom" as he announced the next steps.

The first step will begin on March 8 when pupils are expected to return to schools and colleges with the use of face masks and testing in secondary education settings; socialising in parks and public spaces with one other person will also be permitted and care home residents will be able to receive regular visits from one nominated person, who will be tested and wear PPE. Funerals can be attended by 30 people and weddings by six people.

From March 29 groups of up to six people or two households will be allowed to gather in parks and gardens. Outdoor sport and leisure facilities, including organised outdoor sport for children and adults, can restart - as can outdoor parent and child groups for up to 15 parents.

Further down the line - depending on the success of the vaccine rollout, evidence of the vaccine working, an assessment of new variants and if infection rates remain below a level that could put pressure on the NHS other restrictions will be lifted.

If all goes to plan, non-essential shops, hairdressers, nail salons, libraries, outdoor attractions such as zoos, theme parks and drive-in cinemas and outdoor hospitality venues such as beer gardens could reopen from April 12.

If the above criteria continues to be met further restrictions would be lifted to allow two households or groups of up to six people to mix indoors, and crowds of up to 10,000 to attend large scale performances and sporting events from May 17.

Friends and family could also finally be allowed to hug each other again from that date; and international travel rules will be reviewed, with May 17 targeted as the earliest possible date for a foreign holiday.

All remaining restrictions on social contact could be lifted from June 21, with larger-scale events set for the go ahead along with the reopening of nightclubs.

Dudley North MP Marco Longhi MP said of the Prime Minister's announcement: “This clear plan ensures that Britain will be open for business. Our hugely successful vaccine rollout has enabled this road to freedom. This has been tough for so many people and we must make sure we don’t take any unnecessary risks while two thirds of the population still need to be vaccinated. I know this news will be welcomed by all, we have some very bright lights shining at the end of this very long tunnel. Let’s keep it only as long as it needs to be.”

Richard Butler, director of the CBI (Confederation of British Industry) West Midlands, said the PM's roadmap "offers "hope that the country can get back to business in the coming months".

He added: "The roadmap is a good starting point to the hard yards ahead and caution is rightly the watchword. Businesses in the West Midlands back the step-by-step approach to re-opening and an end to damaging stop-start restrictions. "And getting children back into the classroom first is as much a priority for business as it is for families across the country.

“We now need to turn this roadmap into genuine economic momentum. The budget is the second half of this announcement – extending business support in parallel to restrictions will give firms a bridge to the other side. This is particularly needed for sectors who will have to wait for up to three months to re-open and have an anxious 10 days ahead before the budget.

“Meanwhile businesses are committed to working with government to refresh practical guidance for firms and to fast-track the roll out of tests in workplaces in the months ahead.

“With good news coming every day on the vaccines, the roadmap offers a pragmatic and safe route out of lockdown in England. West Midlands businesses will play their full part in doing so with public health in mind and the confidence to kickstart a recovery.”