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UK annual borrowing exceeds $420 bln due to pandemic support measures

Emergency pandemic support measures sent UK annual borrowing rocketing to the highest level since World War II, official data showed Friday.

Public sector net borrowing — the state’s preferred measure of the deficit — ballooned to £303.1 billion ($420.8 billion, 349.8 billion euros) in the financial year to March, the Office for National Statistics said in a statement.

That was equivalent to 14.5 percent of gross domestic product (GDP) — the highest proportion since 1946 when it stood at 15.2 percent.

Borrowing sky-rocketed in the 2020/2021 financial year as the UK government rushed to cushion the economic blow of COVID-19.

And it contrasted sharply with borrowing of just £57.1 billion in 2019/2020.

“The coronavirus pandemic has had a substantial impact on the economy and subsequently on public sector borrowing and debt,” the ONS said Friday.

In March alone, borrowing hit £28 billion as taxation receipts and national insurance contributions tumbled.

Total state debt now stands at £2.141 trillion, or 97.7 percent of GDP — the biggest proportion since the early 1960s.

Britain is one of the hardest hit countries in the world by the coronavirus pandemic, with a death toll at present of 127,345 people.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s government has spent £352 billion in emergency measures, particularly for a furlough scheme that has paid the lion’s share of private sector wages for millions of Britons.

Johnson’s Conservative administration is targeting a phased reopening on the back of a successful vaccine drive, with non-essential retailers reopening for business last week.

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