Coronavirus: ‘Significant number of deaths’ could occur during UK recession

A “significant number of deaths” could occur due to an economic recession resulting from the coronavirus pandemic, the UK’s chief statistician has warned.

New figures have shown the UK economy shrank by 2% in the three months to the end of March, with Chancellor Rishi Sunak admitting it is “very likely” the country is now facing a “significant recession”.

Mr Sunak also said it would be “premature” to speculate on how quickly the economy could bounce back from the impact of the COVID-19 crisis.

Professor Ian Diamond, the UK national statistician, told MPs the total number of deaths – caused directly or indirectly – from the coronavirus pandemic would likely increase the longer the economy took to recover.

“If we end up with an L-shaped recession, as opposed to a V-shape where we come back out quite quickly, an L-shape over a long period of time could lead to a significant number of deaths as a result of people being pushed into poverty or into long-term unemployment,” Prof Diamond told the House of Commons’ Public Administration and Constitutional Affairs Committee.

“We know that people in the lowest deciles of income have higher mortality rates, sadly, in our country.”

Prof Diamond, who leads the Office for National Statistics, confirmed the UK is “through the peak” of coronavirus infections, but he said the country should be “worried as we come through this current peak we do not seed another one”.

“There are a very, very large number of people still in the community who have COVID-19,” he added, telling MPs an estimated 136,000 people in the UK have coronavirus at the moment.

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