Philippine economy shrank for the first time in over two decades amid coronavirus pandemic, the country’s statistics authority announced on Thursday.

In a statement, the Philippine Statistics Authority said the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) declined by 0.2% in the first quarter of 2020.

“It is the first contraction since fourth quarter of 1998,” the department said.

The Philippines imposed a lockdown in March to stem the spread of COVID-19 in the country thus affecting the businesses.

The statement identified some major economic sectors which witnessed reduced business activities — including agriculture, forestry, and fishing, industry, and services.

In an online briefing, Philippine Socioeconomic Planning official Karl Kendrick Chua said: “The first quarter, I think, is still respectable given the very difficult environment that we are in. The second quarter might be worse but we are using our policies to proactively manage our trajectory,”

“So that by the second half, we can recover gradually,” he said, according to daily Phil Star.

In March, the Philippines Stock Exchange shut its services for two days amid a global crisis triggered by the spread of fatal coronavirus.

Philippines was the first country to shut financial markets as a preventive measure against the virus.

The country has so far reported more than 10,000 cases of the coronavirus, with 658 deaths.

Last time, the island nation’s economy contracted in 1998 amid the Asian financial crisis. The Philippines lost 3% of its economy in the fourth quarter of that year.

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