India’s core sector output shrank 23.4% in May as the coronavirus crisis continue to batter the economy, government data released on Tuesday showed. The index of eight core industries had expanded by 3.8% in May 2019. However, the contraction eased from a record 37% in the previous month.

Except fertiliser, there was a massive decline in production in all seven sectors of coal, crude oil, natural gas, refinery products, steel, cement and electricity. The steepest decline was observed in steel production, which fell 48.4%. This was followed by cement, which saw a 22.2% drop. Fertiliser production grew 7.5% in May. Output in this sector had been on a downward trend for the last two months before this.

During April-May 2020-21, the sectors output contracted by 30% as compared to 4.5% in the same period last year. These eight industries accounts for 40.27% in the Index of Industrial Production.

“In view of nationwide lockdown during April and May 2020 due to Covid19 pandemic, various industries – Coal, Cement, Steel, Natural Gas, Refinery, Crude Oil etc experienced substantial loss of production,” the Ministry of Commerce and Industry said in a statement.

The Centre also revised growth in core sector output in February to a final 6.4%, from a provisional 5.5%.

A nationwide lockdown was imposed from March 25 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.

The data came at a time when India is entering the second phase of easing restrictions. Under this phase, called “Unlock 2”, the restrictions for shops and establishments have also been eased.

Covid-19 has so far infected 5,85,493 people in India. The toll from the disease now stands at 17,400. As many as 3,47,978 people have recovered from the coronavirus so far.

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