Britain's economy shrank by a record 20.4% between April and June, when the coronavirus lockdown was tightest.

This marks the largest contraction reported by any major economy so far, official figures showed today.

The data showed the world's sixth-biggest economy entered a recession as it shrank for a second quarter in a row.

There were signs of a recovery in the month of June alone when gross domestic product grew by 8.7% from May, the UK Office for National Statistics said.

The scale of the hit to gross domestic product may revive questions about Prime Minister Boris Johnson's handling of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Britain has suffered Europe's highest death toll, with more than 50,000 deaths linked to the disease between 1 March and 30 June, according to the ONS.

"The recession brought on by the coronavirus pandemic has led to the biggest fall in quarterly GDP on record," Jonathan Athow of the Office for National Statistics said.

"The economy began to bounce back in June... Despite this, GDP in June still remains a sixth below its level in February, before the virus struck."

Last week the Bank of England forecast it would take until the final quarter of 2021 for the economy to regain its previous size, and warned unemployment was likely to rise sharply.

The second-quarter slump in GDP was almost exactly in line with economists' average forecast in a Reuters poll, and exceeded the 12.1% drop in the euro zone and the 9.5% quarter-on-quarter fall in the United States.

"Today's figures confirm that hard times are here," finance minister Rishi Sunak said. "Hundreds of thousands of people have already lost their jobs, and sadly in the coming months many more will."

The level of output in June was 16.8% below its level a year earlier, compared with a 23.3% fall for May.

Suren Thiru, an economist with the British Chambers of Commerce, said the pick-up towards the end of the quarter probably only reflected the release of pent-up demand rather than the start of a sustained revival.

"The prospect of a swift 'V-shaped' recovery remains remote as the recent gains in output may fade over the coming months as the economic damage caused by the pandemic increasingly weighs on activity, particularly as the government support measures wind down," he said.