The UK economy contracted at its fastest pace since the financial crisis during the first quarter of 2020, the Office for National Statistics has said.
With the country placed into lockdown due to the coronavirus pandemic, gross domestic product shrank by 2 per cent in the three months to March.
February to March saw a record 5.8 per cent contraction.
The latest figures show the first direct effect of the Covid-19 pandemic on the UK economy.
But with the lockdown only coming into place on 23 March, the second quarter will show the full extent of the economic fallout after the UK ground to a standstill.
Jonathan Athow, deputy national statistician for economic statistics at the Office for National Statistics (ONS), said: “With the arrival of the pandemic, nearly every aspect of the economy was hit in March, dragging growth to a record monthly fall.
“Services and construction saw record declines on the month with education, car sales and restaurants all falling substantially.
“Although very few industries saw growth, there were some that did, including IT support and the manufacture of pharmaceuticals, soaps and cleaning products.
“The pandemic also hit trade globally, with UK imports and exports falling over the last couple of months, including a notable drop in imports from China.”
The UK’s dominant services sector suffered a record decline, tumbling by a record 1.9 per cent in the first quarter. There were also significant contractions in production and construction.
Last week, the Bank of England said Britain’s economy could be heading for its sharpest annual slump in GDP in more than 300 years, saying a 14 per cent fall was possible, followed potentially by a 15 per cent rise in 2021.