Covid Scotland: Does Scotland have a higher case rate than England and are tougher restrictions helping?

Scotland has once again diverged from England in terms of Covid-related restrictions, with a number of extra measures in place north of the border.

There have been new rules around large gatherings and hospitality since Boxing Day, but has this had any effect on Covid case rates in Scotland?

Deputy First Minister John Swinney said last week there was “strong evidence” that measures in Scotland were working, as the case rate was lower than in England, according to a recent infection survey from the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

But Mr Swinney was reported to the UK Statistics Authority by Scottish Labour, who accused him of trying to defend restrictions brought in on Boxing Day with data gathered the previous week.

Volunteers hand out boxes of Covid-19 rapid antigen Lateral Flow Tests (LFT), in north east London on January 3, 2022. Photo by TOLGA AKMEN/AFP via Getty Images

The Scottish Government said Mr Swinney was referring to previous measures, including the wearing of face coverings, which have been mandatory in Scotland throughout the pandemic, but returned in England on November 30.

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Based on a survey of private households, the ONS estimated that in the week to December 23, around one in 40 people had Covid in Scotland, compared to one in 25 people in England.

These figures have grown closer together since then, with the most recent survey, in the week to December 31, suggesting one in 20 people in Scotland had the virus, compared to one in 15 people in England.

However, another metric from the same period marked the case rate in Scotland as higher.

The rate per 100,000 people in the seven days to December 31 was 1,910.8 in Scotland, compared to 1,666.9 in England.

A more recent report published by the Scottish Government using the same metric, daily reported cases, also puts the rate at higher in Scotland.

This is based on the average daily case numbers in the week to January 6, with Scotland reporting 2,824 per day per million population, and England reporting 2,615.

It seems reported cases may be higher in Scotland, while the ONS estimates infection to be higher in England.

The ONS survey is often considered the most accurate estimation, as it is not limited by differences in public advice on testing and reporting of results.

But while the differences between England and Scotland are so small, and vary based on the reporting metric, it is likely the Covid rates are broadly similar.

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