LONDON (AP) — Britain’s economic growth slowed more than expected in July as concern about the spread of the highly contagious delta variant of COVID-19 overshadowed the government’s decision to end most social distancing rules.
The economy expanded 0.1% in the month, down from 1% in June. Economists had expected gross domestic product to increase by 0.5%, according to a survey conducted by Pantheon Macroeconomics.
Widespread staff shortages were reported in July as thousands of workers were forced to self-isolate after the government’s COVID-19 app notified them they had come in contact with someone who had tested positive for the virus. The “pingdemic” hit Britain after the government eased restrictions on July 19 and the delta variant fueled infection rates.
Retailers, manufacturers and food suppliers have also reported disruptions due to a shortage of truck drivers linked to the pandemic and Britain’s departure from the European Union, which has made it harder for many Europeans to work in the U.K.
Alpesh Paleja, lead economist for the Confederation of British Industry, said businesses hope the disruptions will be temporary and he called on the government to make more visas available for truck drivers.
“To help ease these pressures, temporary, targeted interventions are needed to enable businesses to keep their doors open,” he said.