India’s core sector output shrank 6.5% in March as the coronavirus took its toll on the economy, government data released on Thursday showed. The index of eight core industries grew at 0.6% for the 2019-’20 financial year, from April 2019 to March 2020, against 4.4% in the previous fiscal year.

There was a massive decline in production of natural gas, fertilisers, steel and cement industries in March. Cement production fell by a whopping 24.7% year-on-year. Natural gas output declined by 15.2%, fertiliser production by 11.9%, and steel by 13%.

Refinery products showed a de-growth in output of 0.5% in March. Electricity generation declined by 7.2%. Crude oil production fell by 5.5%. The only industry which showed positive growth was coal, whose output rose by 4% in March.

A nationwide lockdown has been imposed from March 25 to May 3 to curb the spread of the coronavirus. This lockdown has badly hit the economy, due to closure of most industries, apart from those producing essential goods.

However, from April 20, the Centre allowed certain economic activities to resume in non-hotspot areas of the country. Subsequently, several states partially opened industries in areas not affected by the coronavirus.

Covid-19 has so far infected 33,610 people in India, and killed 1,075, according to the Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare.

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