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Economists polled by Reuters had expected GDP to decline 1.7%, with strict restrictions in place throughout the first three months of the year as the country tried to contain the spiral of cases of Covid-19.
However, with the phasing out of foreclosure measures and the reopening of the economy, the country is expected to experience a strong rebound for the remainder of the year.
The International Monetary Fund expects the UK’s GDP to grow 5.3% in 2021, partially recovering from a year ago, when the economy experienced its largest annual contraction since the Great frost of 1709.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Monday announced that the next step in easing the lockdown would proceed as planned on May 17, with international travel allowed under most circumstances and hospitality locations allowed to greet guests at the interior, a lifeline for the country’s dominant service industry.
The economy grew 2.1% month-over-month in March, slightly beating expectations, and the level of GDP is now 8.7% below its pre-pandemic level in late 2019, according to the Office for National Statistics. On an annual basis, GDP fell 6.1% in the first quarter.
Services and output contracted in the first quarter, but output in the construction sector increased.