Covid Scotland: UK coping with pandemic ‘relatively well’ in world despite thousands of Covid-related deaths, says Jason Leitch

Scotland is coping “relatively well” with the pandemic and is in “the middle of the pack” in terms of Covid deaths in comparison to the rest of the world, Jason Leitch has said.

The national clinical director’s comments comes as health secretary Humza Yousaf confirmed there had been 12,140 deaths, for all causes, since the start of the pandemic – 11 per cent higher than the five-year average.

Over the same period, there were 13,429 deaths involving Covid and 11,443 where Covid was the underlying cause, which was 85 per cent of all the deaths involving coronavirus.

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Mr Yousaf said the excess deaths data “demonstrates Covid’s impact”, adding "behind each of those statistics is a human tragedy”.

Scotland's clinical director Jason Leitch, right, seen with Health Secretary Humza Yousaf (Picture: Jeff J Mitchell/pool/AFP via Getty Images).Scotland's clinical director Jason Leitch, right, seen with Health Secretary Humza Yousaf (Picture: Jeff J Mitchell/pool/AFP via Getty Images).
Scotland's clinical director Jason Leitch, right, seen with Health Secretary Humza Yousaf (Picture: Jeff J Mitchell/pool/AFP via Getty Images).

But Prof Leitch said a “very important” mortality paper published in medical journal The Lancet last week looked at the “whole world for the first time” and proved Scotland was coping “relatively well” in terms of public health practices in tackling the pandemic.

The number of Covid deaths reported by every country is roughly five million. However, Prof Leitch said estimates suggest this number is “actually 18 million”.

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He said waste water testing could also now tell which variant was prevalent from local sewage tests in Scotland.

Prof Leitch said: “All that chat about the UK having the worst mortality in the world – we all knew that was not going to be true in the longer term.

"Sure enough, it’s not. The excess mortality paper published last week in The Lancet looked at pretty much every country they could get their hands on, which was about half the world, and our death certification in the UK and in Western Europe is exemplary. In much of the world, it isn’t."

Prof Leitch stressed the UK was “roughly in the middle of the pack”, with excess mortality in the UK sitting at 162 per 100,000 deaths in comparison to the global average of 100 per 100,000 in the first two years of the pandemic.

He said: "That’s roughly where all of us thought we would be and that’s what we’ve been trying to get to with vaccination, lockdowns early on, with the provision of safety measures since.

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"We are now in a place where we have Covid, but we have no flu, we have the economy open.

"Excess deaths in a week are irrelevant, excess deaths over a period like a global pandemic are absolutely crucial and it will be the way we judge the public measures across the world over the long period.”

There are 21 countries with more than 300 deaths per 100,00, including India, Russia and America.

In India, four million people have died as a result of Covid.

Despite being “shocked and miserable” about the impact of Covid, Prof Leitch said the UK had behaved and preformed “relatively well” from a public health perspective.

Other concerns were raised during the Covid-19 recovery committee meeting on Thursday, including backlog to services.

NHS screening services such as breast screening services for over-70s are being impacted due to “capacity issues” as the NHS faces its “most challenging week of the pandemic”, Mr Yousaf said.

These services have resumed, but there is a “clinical prioritisation” as a result of backlogs and capacity constraints, Mr Yousaf said.

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