More UK companies shuttered by COVID clampdown last month

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LONDON: The proportion of businesses in Britain open during the second half of December fell sharply in the second half of December as COVID-19 restrictions tightened across the country, an official survey showed on Thursday.

The Office for National Statistics said 71% of businesses were operating, down from 84% in the first half of the month and the lowest proportion since late June, when Britain’s economy was emerging from its first COVID-19 lockdown.

The proportion of workers furloughed, based on the responses of businesses, rose to 14% in the latest survey from 11% previously.

The figures are likely to reinforce expectations that the economy entered a double-dip recession in late 2020.

A third national lockdown at the start of 2021 is likely to result in a sharper hit. Finance minister Rishi Sunak warned on Monday that the situation would likely get worse before it gets better as COVID-19 vaccines are rolled out.

Economic data for November – which included the second COVID-19 lockdown – are likely to show an almost 6% drop in output for that month, according to a Reuters poll of economists. The figures are due on Friday at 0700 GMT.

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