United Kingdom hit with biggest economic collapse in more than 300 years

Empty streets in London at the height of the lockdown (Getty Images)
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While the U.S economy shrank last year by the largest amount in 74 years, the United Kingdom is battling its worst economic collapse in over three centuries, long during the time American colonies were still British in the 1700s, no thanks to the coronavirus pandemic

“It’s almost crippling, really. We’ve had to be really careful, and a bit you know inventive to survive,” Charlie Foster told CBS News‘ Holly Williams.

Foster, whose business has been badly hit like thousands of other people, told CBS he doesn’t think the business he’s been doing for four generations could survive another year if things continue this way. “Another year, no, we wouldn’t be able to survive that long,” Foster said.

Half of the more than 50 employees of Foster’s family fruit and vegetable business in London are now on furlough, and there is no end in sight.

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In a wealthy part of Central London, near where fashionable boutiques and houses that sell for tens of millions of dollars are located, people now receive groceries and meals at a food bank. Many of them said they used to be considered middle class.

“I never thought in my wildest dreams I’d ever come down here, having to come into a food bank. I used to give people money on the streets,” Jane Austin told CBS.

Austin was a chef working in upscale venues before the pandemic struck. Now she said she has to choose between heating her apartment or buying food.

“I felt embarrassed, to be quite honest, I felt, this was one of my lowest points, like to come and ask for food,” Austin said.

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“Ironically, this food bank is in one of the wealthiest areas of London,” Williams said.

“It’s ironic, it’s absolutely horrendous. I’ve paid taxes, and this is what I’m getting for my taxes. It’s just heartache and pain,” Austin replied.

Dr. Miatta Fahnbulleh, an economist, told CBS News the British government’s slow response to the pandemic, along with Brexit, created a perfect storm of economic pain.

“There are families that literally cannot feed their children. I think as we see more images of this, there will be a sense that you know our government are letting people down, and it is unacceptable,” Fahnbulleh said.

Covid-19, which triggered the pandemic last year, is believed to have originated in Wuhan China early, but a new variant of the coronavirus surfaced in the UK late last year, making matters worse – both the economy and the public health.

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The new variant, already found in the US, has been spreading quickly and scientists believe the virus is 30% to 70% deadlier than the original strain.

As a result, the UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson tweeted last month, “it is therefore more important that we all follow the rules and stay at home”