The centre director of Watford’s shopping mall has welcomed Boris Johnson’s roadmap out of lockdown, saying it is a “hugely positive leap forward” to reopening the mall for business.

Plans outlined by the Prime Minister on Monday will see shops deemed as ‘non-essential’ able to lift their shutters from April 12 at the earliest, while hospitality venues such as restaurants can start serving people outdoors at the same time.

And under the government’s plan, hospitality venues will be able to start serving customers indoors no earlier than May 17.

Vicki Costello, centre director at the town’s shopping mall, said the news “is welcoming for us and our retailers”.

She said: “Although we anticipate this to be a gradual process of reopening and measures will continue to be in place, such as wearing a face covering, it is a hugely positive leap forward to getting the centre back open for business.

“We have missed our visitors greatly and we want to remind them of all the fantastic places we offer, from fashion, technology and homeware to restaurants, bars and leisure activities.”

Outlining his plans on Monday, Mr Johnson defended his “cautious but also irreversible” approach to relaxing restrictions with a four-step plan, arguing he will not be “buccaneering” with people’s lives.

But despite billing his plans as a “one way road to freedom”, he admitted he could not guarantee that restrictions will not have to return, as he aims for the impact of the vaccination programme replacing the need for lockdown measures.

He accepted that scientific modelling suggested that lifting measures will increase Covid-19 cases and ultimately deaths, but insisted the restrictions could not continue indefinitely.

And he acknowledged that there are ethical issues around vaccine certificates, after launching a review to determine whether they could be used by venues or firms.

In the first step of the road map, all pupils in England’s schools are expected to return to class from March 8, with wider use of face masks and testing in secondaries.

Socialising in parks and public spaces with one other person will also be permitted from that date.

A further easing of restrictions will take place on March 29 when the school Easter holidays begin with larger groups of up to six people or two households allowed to gather in parks and gardens.