Tuesday, March 21, 2023
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Boris Johnson put to the test as UK economy records largest monthly contraction

Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak warned Wednesday that the country faces a significant recession after GDP fell almost 6% in March.

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London: Prime Minister Boris Johnson came up against increasing pressure over his handling of the coronavirus crisis just as the British economy recorded its largest monthly contraction on record.

Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak warned on Wednesday the U.K. faces a significant recession after gross domestic product fell almost 6% in March.

“We’ve got a very sharp move into recession, and it was quite sudden, which is what we’ve all observed from the shutting down of the economy,” Bank of England Governor Andrew Bailey told ITV’s “Peston” program.

The stark reminder of the economic pain Johnson will have to alleviate in the years ahead came on the same day as the premier faced questions over the spread of the disease in care homes, where more than 8,000 deaths have been attributed to the virus. The issue is a source of vulnerability for Johnson, who has been criticized for failing to provide the sector with adequate funding and personal protective equipment for staff.

At the weekly Prime Minister’s Questions, new Labour leader Keir Starmer asked Johnson to account for an excess 10,000 deaths reported in care homes that weren’t attributed to the virus. Johnson struggled to answer. Deputy Chief Medical Officer Jenny Harries later said many of those deaths could be linked to Covid-19.

‘Absolutely True’

Starmer also accused Johnson of misleading lawmakers after the prime minister denied the government told care homes their residents were unlikely to get the virus — something the premier rejected.

“It is absolutely true that the number of casualties has been too high,” Johnson told the House of Commons as the government announced an extra 600 million pounds ($734 million) of funding to reduce infections in care homes.

Johnson also came in for criticism from Starmer for ending the practice of providing an international comparison of virus mortalities in the government’s daily coronavirus press briefing. At present, Britain has the highest death toll in Europe.

On a positive note for Johnson, Public Health England cleared a Roche Holding AG antibody test, raising the prospect that widespread antibody testing could soon be available in the U.K. The tests show whether someone has already had the virus and may have a degree of immunity, meaning they can potentially resume social contact with others.- Bloomberg

Also read: Covid-19 vaccine may never be found, says Boris Johnson

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