Covid: Why does Scotland have the highest infection rates in Europe?

Scotland has become Europe’s ‘Covid capital’, with five in ten of the areas with highest infection rates on the continent.

According to the World Health Organisation, Tayside has the highest rate of Covid in Europe, at 677 cases per 100,000 people.

This is followed by Lothian, at 570 cases. Greater Glasgow and Clyde, Fife and Lanarkshire are also in the top ten.

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The precise reasons for Scotland’s high Covid rates cannot be known for sure, but it’s likely to be a number of factors.

Scotland has the highest rate of Covid-19 in Europe.
Scotland has the highest rate of Covid-19 in Europe.

Cases were always going to rise as restrictions eased and people began to mingle more, as we have been doing for several months now.

It should also be noted that significantly more tests are being done now than in the first and second waves of the virus, especially asymptomatic tests. This means a higher percentage of cases in the community will be reported in Scottish Government data.

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There are a few other factors.

The current wave is driven by the Delta variant of Covid, first identified in India.

This seeded into Scotland’s biggest city, Glasgow, and as such has been able to spread quickly to the rest of the country.

Several experts have said the entrance of the Delta variant into the country on such a large scale could have been prevented or delayed by stricter travel restrictions. UK Government rules also affect Scotland, and the decision to put India on the travel “red list” was resisted for several weeks.

Cases began to rise across the whole of Scotland several weeks after the variant became a concern in Glasgow.

It is now widely accepted that mixing associated with the Euro 2020 championships increased this.

Almost 2,000 people who tested positive for Covid in June had attended a Euro 2020 event – including those who travelled to London for the Wembley game, spectators at Hampden or people who had watched a match in the Glasgow fan zone or at a pub or house party.

Nicola Sturgeon has pointed to a lower population immunity in Scotland. In previous waves of the virus, there were fewer infections in Scotland than elsewhere in the UK, meaning that fewer people have developed natural immunity.

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