Official charts lay bare the full impact of Covid crisis

Coronavirus is the deadliest pandemic to hit Britain since the Spanish flu in 1918 and has caused the worst recession in 300 years – but house prices KEPT going up

  • Office for National Statistics report lays bare impact of coronavirus crisis on UK
  • Covid caused more deaths in 2020 than other infectious diseases for a century
  • National public sector debt has now reached levels last seen in the early 1960s
  • Many industries saw job vacancies fall more in 2020 than in 2008 financial crash
  • But average house prices continued to increase even as the economy shrank 

Official charts today laid bare the full devastating impact of the coronavirus crisis on the UK. 

A new Office for National Statistics report assessing the damage done by the pandemic showed Covid-19 caused more deaths in 2020 than other infectious diseases caused in any year for over a century. 

The last time an infectious disease had a similar toll on the nation was way back in 1918 during the so-called ‘Spanish flu’ influenza pandemic. 

The ONS report also sets out the scale of the consequences for the economy, with public sector debt having reached levels last seen in the early 1960s as ministers borrowed billions of pounds to keep the UK afloat.

Coronavirus has also taken a sledgehammer to the jobs market, with many industries suffering a bigger fall in vacancies during 2020 than they did in the wake of the 2008 financial crash. 

However, unlike the 2008 crisis and the resulting economic downturn, average house prices have actually increased throughout the pandemic. 

The house price boom comes despite the UK economy suffering a 9.9 per cent dip in 2020 – the worst annual performance since the Great Frost devastated Europe in 1709. 

The coronavirus crisis caused more deaths in 2020 than other infectious diseases caused in any year for over a century

Public sector debt continues to climb above £2.1trillion, with debt now at levels last seen in the early 1960s

Despite the UK economy being hammered by Covid-19, average house prices in the UK continued to surge during the pandemic

The ONS report, entitled ‘Coronavirus: A Year Like No Other’, was released to mark the one year anniversary of people in the UK first being told to limit their non-essential contact with others and to stop all unnecessary travel. 

The report confirmed that Covid-19 caused more deaths last year than other infectious diseases caused in any year for more than 100 years. 

More than 140,000 people have died in the UK with coronavirus either described as the underlying cause or as a contributory cause on their death certificates.

Some 73,500 people in England and Wales who died in 2020 had Covid-19 registered as the underlying cause of death. 

The ONS said coronavirus is ‘likely to be classed as an infectious and parasitic disease’, allowing a comparison with previous deadly outbreaks. 

The statistics body said: ‘This means COVID-19 was the underlying cause of more deaths in 2020 than any other infectious and parasitic diseases had caused in any year since 1918; that year there were just over 89,900 deaths from various infectious and parasitic diseases registered in England and Wales.’

Data released earlier this year by the ONS showed the UK had officially suffered its worst recession in 300 years in 2020.  

Over the whole of last year the economy dived by 9.9 per cent – the worst annual performance since the Great Frost devastated Europe in 1709. 

It means that the pandemic effectively wiped out seven years of growth during a single 12-month period.   

The new report confirmed public sector debt continues to climb above £2.1trillion, illustrating the scale of the challenge now facing ministers as they try to get the public finances back onto a sustainable footing.

Debt as a percentage of the economy has now reached levels last seen in the early 1960s. 

Ministers have borrowed tens of billions of pounds throughout the pandemic to pay for things like the furlough scheme and financial support for businesses. 

Huge borrowing combined with lower tax revenue and the massive hit to GDP have caused national debt to surge. 

The ONS said: ‘At the end of January 2021 public sector net debt (excluding public sector banks) was 97.9 per cent of GDP.’ 

The report also revealed the extent of the damage done to the jobs market, with the number of vacancies falling sharply after the first lockdown was imposed on March 23 last year. The hit suffered by some industries was even worse than that in 2008.   

An ONS Vacancy Survey showed that vacancies fell 38 per cent, from 701,000 in January to March 2008 to a low of 432,000 in April to June 2009 before rising again.

The imposition of the first national lockdown in March last year resulted in a sharp fall in job vacancies in many industries

The Office for National Statistics said earlier this year that over the whole of 2020 the UK economy dived by 9.9 per cent – the worst annual performance since the Great Frost devastated Europe in 1709

In comparison, quarterly vacancies stood at 802,000 across the UK in October to December 2019 and fell by 57 per cent to a low of 343,000 in April to June 2020.  

‘By October to December 2020, the number of vacancies had risen to 590,000, down 26 per cent on the same three months of 2019,’ the ONS said in its report. 

Despite the damage done to the economy, the UK housing market continued to surge during the pandemic. 

House prices shrank along with the economy back in 2008 but in 2020 house prices increased even as GDP was hammered. 

As a result, the average UK house price reached a record high of £252,000 in December last year – an increase of 8.5 per cent over the year. 

The ONS said the difference between 2008 and 2020 could be because the former crisis was largely related to ‘structural issues with financing mortgages’.

‘Whereas the fall in GDP in 2020 was possibly driven more by reduced opportunities to spend, caused by lockdown restrictions, rather than primarily a lack of funds,’ the report said.       

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