“Just as the economy began to strengthen at the beginning of the year, the shock of this deepening global health crisis has flung businesses into the abyss, with the worst overall downturn in manufacturing and services for more than two decades.
“The services sector received the largest blow as citizens reduced their social activity and leisure activities were abandoned. The sector recorded its worst drop in activity since 1996 when the survey began. New orders also took a significant hit as the rapid realisation of the significance of COVID-19 applied an abrupt brake on consumer-facing businesses.
“Shortages of manufacturing components following global factory closures dislocated manufacturing supply chains and led to the greatest lengthening of delivery times since the index began in 1992. A surge in demand for food and pharmaceutical products led to rising output in some parts of the manufacturing sector, but this was more than offset by a slump in production elsewhere.
“As more serious measures are considered by the UK Government, the effect of coronavirus on businesses will get much worse. Even with interest rates cuts and an injection of cash into the economy to support struggling businesses, the inevitable rise in unemployment is sure to follow along with business failures especially amongst SMEs.
“As more initiatives are rightly introduced to protect the health of the nation, this emergency will have a long-lasting impact on business life as we know it.”