UK economy hits reverse on virus curbs

LONDON (AFP) – Britain’s economy slumped 2.6 per cent in November on coronavirus restrictions, official data showed yesterday, stoking fears that the current virus lockdown could spark a double-dip recession.

Gross domestic product hit reverse after 0.6-per cent growth in October, the Office for National Statistics said in a statement, adding the economy was 8.5 per cent smaller than its pre-pandemic level in February.

England was placed in partial lockdown in November as the government raced to curb spiking Covid-19 infections, while there were also restrictions in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.

Curbs were then eased in the run-up to holiday. “The economy took a hit from restrictions put in place to contain the pandemic during November,” said ONS Director for Economic Statistics Darren Morgan. “However, many businesses adjusted to the new working conditions during the pandemic, such as widespread use of click-and-collect as well as the move online.

“Manufacturing and construction generally continued to operate, while schools also stayed open, meaning the impact on the economy was significantly smaller in November than during the first lockdown.”

The downturn also came ahead of Britain’s final divorce from the European Union (EU) at the end of December when it formally left the EU’s single market and customs union.

England and Scotland went back into a weeks-long lockdown this month, similar to the first national coronavirus curbs in place from March to June, as the UK government sought to halt a variant Covid-19 strain that is said to be more transmissible.