LAST week figures showed that the UK economy shrank by 20.4 per cent in April. The largest contraction on record was expected as experts predicted April to be the worst month so far, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) said April’s historic fall has affected all areas of activity as lockdown restrictions were in full force.

In comparison, the economy during the global financial crisis of 2008-2009 fell by 6.9 per cent. In one month, during April GDP fell at 3 times this rate.

AN estimated 8.9million UK workers are now on the Government’s Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme with an estimated cost of £19.6 billion so far, had these schemes not been implemented, this could have resulted in the country’s GDP falling even further.

The Chancellor Rishi Sunak has responded by saying that as high street stores reopen the economy could get “a little bit more back to normal” however this will be a drawn-out process and the effect of stores reopening will not be felt for many months.

With non-essential businesses opening their doors and welcoming customers this week, it is the hope that this will stimulate the economy.

Fifty-one per cent of Herefordshire and Worcestershire Chamber of Commerce Members have however expressed concerns about returning to work safely, with many of these businesses concerned that they won’t be able to implement the necessary social distancing rules.

However some businesses are still finding the “new normal” difficult to operate in, some sectors are finding the two-metre rule obstructive and opening their doors will mean reduced customer numbers which may not be a financially viable option.

There are however a large number of businesses who are ready to welcome back their customers and kick start their businesses. Already I have been hearing about the positive stories from businesses who have reopened their doors and how important this restart is for them and their business.

The ONS numbers released last week are adding further pressure on the Government to ease lockdown restrictions quicker in order for businesses to get back to normal at a faster rate, however there is the challenging task of balancing the economy with public health, with any further easing of restriction could possibly lead to a disastrous second lockdown period which would damage the economy even further.

For further advice and guidance on the support available to businesses, visit our Coronavirus Business Support Hub.