British economy shrank a record 5.8% in March, gov't says

British economy shrank a record 5.8% in March, gov't says
A street near British Parliament is seen empty on March 27 after Prime Minister Boris Johnson imposed a national lockdown due to the coronavirus pandemic. File Photo by Hugo Philpott/UPI | License Photo

May 13 (UPI) -- Britain's economy contracted by a record 5.8 percent in March, officials said Wednesday as the world's sixth-largest economy begins to show the toll of the coronavirus pandemic.

The Office for National Statistics released its first-quarter report for 2020 on Wednesday, stating Gross Domestic Product shrank by 2 percent during the first three months of the year.


The office said the economy saw a slight increase of 0.1 percent in January but then contracted by 0.2 percent in February followed a record 5.8 percent dive in March.

The figures, the office said, capture the first direct effects of the coronavirus.

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Britain confirmed its first coronavirus case at the end of January. As of Tuesday, Britain had recorded more than 226,000 confirmed infections of COVID-19 and more than 32,000 deaths, according to data from the Department of Health and Social Care.


To stymie the spread of the disease, officials restricted movement in the country on March 23 -- a move the statistical office said had the most significant impact on the economy, suggesting that the economy's contraction may be worse in April and May.

Nearly all industries contributed to the decline while British trade was also negatively affected, especially imports from China, said Deputy National Statistician for Economic Statistics Jonathan Athow.

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Among service sectors, accommodation and food services dropped 9.5 percent, transport and storage fell 4.9 percent and construction contracted 2.6 percent.

"With the arrival of the pandemic nearly every aspect of the economy was hit in March, dragging growth to a record monthly fall," Athow said in a statement. "Services and construction saw record declines on the month with education, car sales and restaurants all falling substantially."

IT support and the manufacturing of pharmaceuticals, soaps and cleaning products experienced growth during the first quarter, Athow said.

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Last Thursday, the Bank of England warned the economy could contract as much as 14 percent this year with its recovery dependent oh how quickly Britain can end its outbreak.

The figures were announced as lockdown measures were eased throughout the country allowing people to spend more time outdoors and people who cannot work from home to travel to their places of occupation.


Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced the easing earlier this week as part of a three-phase strategy to reopen the country.

Britain has the fourth-highest number of infections but the second-most deaths to the virus, according to tracking site

Russia recently passed Britain into third in terms of infections as it continues to report quintuple-digit daily figures.

On Wednesday, Russia said it recorded 10,028 new cases of the virus and additional 96 deaths for a total of 2,212.

The United States leads the world in infections with 1.4 million and nearly 300,000 deaths.

Spain sits second in cases with 269,520 infections and fourth in deaths with 26,920.

Globally, some 4.3 million people have contracted the disease and more than 293,000 have died.

Health officials in China, ground zero of the virus, reported seven new cases of COVID-19, six of which were registered in Jilin Province where officials have seen an increase in cases recently.

Gai Dongping, the vice mayor of the province's second-largest metropolis, Jilin city, told reporters Wednesday they will implement further restrictions to prevent spread of the virus.

Officials said they have traced the infections to an outbreak 60 miles north in the province's Shulan city, which has been placed under martial law.


Jilin train stations were also temporarily suspended starting Wednesday morning, China's state-run CGTN reported.

China, once the epicenter of the pandemic, has experienced mostly single- and low double-digit daily increases since March. It sits 11th in terms of infections with 82,926 and 12th in deaths with 4,633.

On Tuesday, India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced a $260 billion coronavirus relief package, accounting for 10 percent of GDP.

Though scant on details, Modi said it will provide a much-needed boost to the "self-reliant India Campaign."

"This economic package is for that laborer of the country, for the farmers of the country who are working day and night for the countrymen in every situation, every season," he said in a televised address. "This economic package is for the middle class of our country, which pays taxes honestly and contributes to the development of the country."

India has more than 74,000 infections and 2,415 deaths to the disease, according to data from the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare.

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