Thursday 16 April 2020 11:30 am

One in four UK firms temporarily closed due to coronavirus

A quarter of UK firms have closed or paused trading as coronavirus ravages the economy, new figures have shown.

For those businesses still open, on average more than 20 per cent of staff have been furloughed using the government’s job retention scheme, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) said.

The figures, which cover the period from 23 March to 5 April, come as coronavirus lockdown measures have effectively put the economy on hold. Demand at bricks and mortar shops has tumbled as the public stays indoors.

The Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) on Tuesday said the UK economy could shrink by 35 per cent in the second quarter.

Lockdown measures are hitting businesses hard, the ONS figures confirmed today. The UK’s official statistics body said 38 per cent of firms said turnover was “substantially lower than normal”.

More than 40 per cent of those businesses that are continuing to trade said they were reducing staff levels in the short term. Nearly 30 per cent reported having to decrease working hours.

Almost half of the staff of firms still in business were working from home, while 37 per cent were still doing their jobs from their normal place of work and 16 per cent had other arrangements.

In a sign of the toll the coronavirus lockdown is taking, more than half of those surveyed said the situation had affected their wellbeing.

The ONS figures also showed that the prices of “high demand products” such as hand wash and medicines have soared in recent weeks, rising 4.4 per cent in just a month. Pet food, rice and tomato puree were the biggest risers last week.

The figures from the ONS are part of its effort to keep the government and public updated about changes in the economy. Its figures usually lag events by at least a month.

“The information from these surveys is providing vital insight to the UK Government into how people are responding to, and feeling about, the current situation,” the ONS said.