Infections Are Rising in Scotland but Hospitalisations Remain Low

Compared to the other U.K. nations, Scotland’s third wave of infections appears to be more advanced. On June 22nd, 3,253 cases were recorded (going by date of specimen) which is the highest daily total since the start of mass testing. See the chart below, taken from the government’s COVID-19 dashboard:

However, as even Nicola Sturgeon has acknowledged, “Most cases are now in younger, yet to be vaccinated groups, so fewer are becoming v ill.” In fact, the recent surge appears to be related to Euro 2020.

A dramatic gender gap has opened up in the last two weeks, with men aged 15–44 substantially more likely to test positive than their female counterparts. The BBC quotes behavioural scientist Stephen Reicher as saying “the obvious explanation is that people were getting together for the football”.

Compare the chart above with the one below, which shows the number of patients admitted to hospital with COVID-19:

The first time there were over 3,000 cases recorded in a single day, on 29th December, the number of patients admitted to hospital with COVID-19 was 153. Yet on 22nd June, the number was only 35 (roughly four and a half times lower).

As Fraser Nelson noted in a tweet yesterday, the number of hospitalisations per 1,000 cases 10 days earlier (for the whole of the U.K.) has been trending downward for the past four months. At the end of February, the number was about 100. It has since fallen to less than 30.

‘Deaths within 28 days of a positive test’ tells the same story as hospitalisations. There were 26 on December 29th, compared to only four on June 22nd. But of course, this measure has tended to overstate the lethality of COVID-19 since the end of the first wave.

If we look at age-adjusted excess mortality, then even Scotland’s second wave of infections didn’t translate into a large number of deaths. (Unfortunately, data are only available up to February 12th.) The age-standardised mortality rate rose above the baseline for several successive weeks, but not to anywhere near the same extent as in the first wave.

And given that approximately 80% of Scottish adults now have COVID-19 antibodies, which confer a high degree of protection from serious illness or death, we’re very unlikely to see a repeat of last spring’s mortality numbers.

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