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Britain’s economy shrinks by record 20% in April amid coronavirus lockdown

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June 12 (UPI) — Britain’s economy during its first full month under lockdown contracted by more than 20 percent in April, its worst drop ever recorded, according to figures released by the government early Friday.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson ordered the country under strict lockdown during the last full week of March, informing the public to stay home unless absolutely necessary to prevent the spread of the infectious and deadly coronavirus.

Stores, industry, schools and all but essential businesses closed until May when Johnson began to slowly ease restrictions.

In March, the economy shrank 5.8 percent, largely attributable to the near week-and-a-half lockdown. In April, gross domestic product contracted 20.4 percent, or one-fifth, due to widespread drops across the entire economy, the Office for National Statistics said Friday.

“April’s fall in GDP is the biggest the UK has ever seen, more than three times larger than last month and almost 10 times the steepest pre-COVID-19 fall,” Jonathan Athow, deputy national statistician for Economic Statistics, said in a statement. “In April, the economy was around 25 percent smaller than in February.”

For the three months ending with the end of April, GDP dropped 10.4 percent as the drastic restrictions on movement reduced economic activity, the ONS reported.

All sectors of the economy were hit, with accommodation and food services shrinking 40.9 percent, by far the most of any segment. Other services, a term grouping together businesses that don’t fall under the main categories, experienced the second tightest squeeze of 20.5 percent followed by education at 18.8 percent and construction at an 18.2 percent drop.

“Virtually all areas of the economy were hit, with pubs, education, health and car sales all giving the biggest contributions to this historic fall,” Athow said. “Manufacturing and construction also saw significant falls with manufacture of cars and housebuilding particularly badly affected.”

Among record falls, services experienced its largest contraction since the series began in 1997, production and manufacturing had their tightest squeezes since the series began in 1968 and construction had its largest fall since the series began in 2010.

The only sector to grow in April was public administration and defense, which expanded by a marginal 0.2 percent.

The figures were published two days after the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development forecast the world’s economy to experience its “most severe recession in nearly a century,” potentially contracting by as much as 7.6 percent by year’s end.

The forecast shows Britain’s GDP contracting by 14 percent in 2020 from a year previous if a second wave of infections sweeps across the nation and 11.5 percent if there is only the single wave.

Britain sits fifth in the world in coronavirus cases behind the United States, Brazil, Russia and India but first in Europe with more than 292,000 infections resulting in more than 41,000 deaths, according to a live tracker of the virus by Johns Hopkins University.

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