Quarter of firms shut doors in face of coronavirus

A quarter of businesses have temporarily halted trading in response to the coronavirus outbreak, according to new figures.

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) said 25% of the 5,316 firms surveyed in its Business Impact of Coronavirus Survey said they temporarily closed or paused trading in the two weeks to April 5.

Firms which have continued to trade furloughed an average of 21% of their workforce over the period, the survey said.

It also revealed that 38% of firms which continued to trade said their turnover was “substantially lower than normal”, while 35% said turnover was unaffected by the crisis.

Around 41% of businesses which continued to trade said they were “reducing staff levels in the short term” in response to the virus.

The survey, which is the first by the ONS to look at the first two weeks of the lockdown, revealed that almost 40% of adults had work-related worries due to the pandemic.

Of those with work-related concerns, 36% of respondents said their main concern was the availability of work and decreased hours.

Iain Bell, deputy national statistician for public policy at the ONS, said: “It’s never been more important, or more appreciated, that businesses and individuals give their time to tell us about their experiences.

“The information from these surveys is providing vital insight to the UK Government into how people are responding to, and feeling about, the current situation, including their anxieties and measures that are helping them to cope.”

The ONS also said that the online prices of high-demand products increased by 1.8% from the week ending April 5 to the week ending April 12.

It said this is driven by large rises in the price of pet food, up 8.4%, and rice, which rose by 5.8%.

However, some products declined in price, such as pasta sauce, which declined by 4.5%, and baby food, which fell by 4.1%.