Britain’s coronavirus-ravaged economy shrank 9.9% in 2020, the biggest annual fall in output since modern records began.

But the UK avoided heading back towards recession in the final quarter of the year, official figures showed today.

UK gross domestic product grew 1% between October and December versus the previous quarter, the Office for National Statistics said.

This compared with forecasts in a Reuters poll of economists for growth of 0.5%.

It makes it unlikely that Britain will see two quarters of contraction in a row – the standard definition of recession in Europe – even though the economy is set to shrink sharply in early 2021 due to the effects of a third COVID lockdown.

UK finance minister Rishi Sunak said the economy had suffered a serious shock from the Covid-19 pandemic and the government would do everything it can to protect jobs and businesses.

“Today’s figures show that the economy has experienced a serious shock as a result of the pandemic, which has been felt by countries around the world,” he said.

“While there are some positive signs of the economy’s resilience over the winter, we know that the current lockdown continues to have a significant impact on many people and businesses,” he stated.

“That’s why my focus remains fixed on doing everything we can to protect jobs, businesses and livelihoods,” he added.