Sterling slid on Monday as the death toll from the novel coronavirus increased and officials said it was too soon to talk about easing the lockdown implemented to stop the virus spreading further.
Britain reported 596 deaths from COVID-19, the respiratory disease caused by the virus, in hospitals in its daily update on Sunday, raising the country’s total to more than 16,000.
While that marked the smallest increase in almost two weeks, figures published over weekends have usually shown smaller-than-average increases in the death toll, and these daily figures do not include deaths in the wider community.
Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove said Britain was not considering lifting its lockdown imposed almost four weeks ago to control the coronavirus outbreak given “deeply worrying” increases in the death toll.
Sterling fell 0.3% against both the dollar and the euro, trading last at $1.2468 and at 87.16 pence respectively.
Speculators cut slightly their net long positions on the currency in the week to April 14, CFTC data shows.
The pandemic has frozen economic activity in Britain, as in most other developed countries, prompting economists to forecast a deep recession.
The number of British people leaving their homes to go shopping has slumped by 83% since the government closed non-essential retail outlets last month to slow the spread of COVID-19, the British Retail Consortium trade body said on Monday.
Separately, property website Rightmove said it was unable to provide meaningful house price data due to a collapse in the number of new homes being listed for sale.
“Expect to hear more on the size of the UK recession from Bank of England speakers this morning,” said Petr Krpata, chief EMEA FX and IR strategist at ING. However, a “soft euro environment could see euro/sterling drift to 0.8620/50”, he said.