The UK’s economic bounce-back has slowed sharply partly thanks to the impact of the “pingdemic” causing workers to isolate, according to a key business survey.

A “flash” estimate of private sector activity for July showed the weakest expansion since March as Britain’s firms battle to recover from the coronavirus crisis.

The reading of 57.7 – where the 50-mark separates growth from contraction – was down from 62.2 in June, according to the IHS Markit/CIPS purchasing managers’ index (PMI).

It said the impact of COVID-19 isolation on staff availability and severe shortages of raw materials were among the factors behind the slowdown.

Chris Willamson, chief business economist at IHS Markit, said: “July saw the UK economy’s recent growth spurt stifled by the rising wave of virus infections, which subdued customer demand, disrupted supply chains and caused widespread staff shortages, and also cast a darkening shadow over the outlook.”

The economy has been recovering in recent months after pandemic lockdowns crushed business activity over much of the past year and precipitated the worst annual collapse in GDP for three centuries in 2020.

Forecasts suggest Britain will experience its biggest rebound since the Second World War in 2021 but the latest survey figures showed sentiment declining – with optimism about the business outlook the lowest for nine months.

Business

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