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UK economy shrinks more than expected in first quarter

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Britain's economy fared worse than previously thought in the first quarter due to the Covid lockdown./AFP
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Jul 01, 2021 - 06:13 AM

LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM — Britain’s coronavirus-hit economy shrank by slightly more than expected in the first quarter before a subsequent easing of lockdown restrictions, revised official data showed on Wednesday.

Gross domestic product contracted by 1.6 percent in the three months to the end of March, down from the previous figure of 1.5 percent, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) said in a statement.

“Today’s updated GDP figures show the same picture as our earlier estimate with schools, hospitality and retail all hit by the re-imposition of the lockdown in January and February, with some recovery in March,” said ONS deputy national statistician Jonathan Athow.

“With many services unavailable, households again saved at record levels.”

The UK government reimposed England’s lockdown in early January, but began lifting restrictions at the start of March with the reopening of schools.

Under a phased reopening, bars and restaurants restarted outdoor dining in April and indoor services in May.

Non-essential retail stores also opened back up in April.

The economy is expected to fully reopen on July 19, after the government delayed the date by four weeks due to surging Delta infections.

The ONS added on Wednesday that economic activity in the first quarter was 8.8 percent below its pre-pandemic level from late 2019.

“The small downward revision to Q1 GDP growth probably won’t stop the economy from rising back to its pre-pandemic peak in the coming months,” noted Capital Economics analyst Paul Dales.

“And the larger rebound in the household saving rate increases the potential for faster rises in GDP further ahead.”

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