Gross domestic product shrunk by 1.5% in the first quarter, according to the Office for National Statistics, a better than expected performance that was helped by a surge in activity in March as coronavirus restrictions were eased slightly.

The lifting of the remaining restrictions is expected to unlock a huge surge in growth this summer. But multiple lockdowns and a trade shock caused by Brexit have left UK GDP 8.7% smaller than it was before the pandemic started, meaning the country has a bigger mountain to climb than many other major economies.

Economic output in Italy, another country that was hit hard by the pandemic, is 6.9% lower than before the pandemic. The German and French economies are 4.9% and 4.4% smaller, respectively, while the United States is nearly back to pre-pandemic levels.

The question now is how quickly the UK economy bounces back as its hugely successful vaccination program continues and coronavirus…

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