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The UK economy shrank by an “unprecedented” 20.4% in April, the first full month of the coronavirus lockdown.
The new figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) mark the largest monthly contraction since records began in 1997 and massively outstrips the then-record 5.8% drop in March gross domestic product (GDP) reported last month.
It means that GDP fell by 10.4% in the three months to April and sets the UK on course for one of its worst quarters in history.
Jonathan Athow, deputy national statistician at the ONS, told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “Well, 20% is really unprecedented.
“Actually, if you take March and April together the fall was 25%. So in two months the economy shrank by a quarter.”
May’s GDP figures are also likely to be awful, before things start to ease again in June as the economy slowly reopens, PA Media reported.
Large parts of the British economy were placed on ice on March 23 when prime minister Boris Johnson told people they must stay inside and only leave the house when absolutely necessary.
The measures were announced to slow the spread of Covid-19.
Experts had been expecting April’s GDP to contract by 18.7%, according to a consensus compiled by Pantheon Macroeconomics.
Shadow chancellor Anneliese Dodds warned the UK economy is shrinking at a faster rate than those of other developed countries.
Speaking on BBC Breakfast, she said: “What particularly concerns me is that actually we’re not just looking at one month of economic damage.
“There was a report that came out a couple of days ago from the OECD and it suggested that the drop in GDP for this year for the UK would actually be worse than for every other industrialised nation.
“So we’re in a very, very difficult situation as a country and we will need strong action to help us climb out of this as quickly as possible.”