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COVID-19 in Scotland: perhaps some optimism and some caution

Glasgow / Scotland – April 2020: Elderly Woman Shopping in Glasgow Wearing PPE Protective Mask During Coronavirus Covid-19 Pandemic Beside Ross Muir Square Gogh And These Days Will Pass Fly Posters

For the first time in 19 months, I feel a bit more optimistic about the COVID-19 pandemic. Yes, the pandemic is still raging and the number of cases – and deaths – in England and in Wales is still climbing up. Yes, the cases are going up across Europe. Yes, a lot of these new cases are among those vaccinated. Yes, we have a difficult winter ahead, with seasonal flu possibly returning with a vengeance and Respiratory syncytial viruses spreading into a population with much lower immunity.

But, looking at the newest Scottish data, I really start feeling like the worst is behind us. I have so far been very cautious with predicting what might be happening ahead. In fact, in many views exchanges, it was me who was advocating caution and pouring cold water on any hopes of “herd immunity”.

I still believe that “herd immunity” is a highly confusing term, to the point of being unhelpful in the current outbreak. I have written about it (again) in The Conversation article. The title of this article (added by the editor) has not perhaps aged well – relaxation has brought a spike in cases – but I was making a point there:

Although repeats of large waves from last winter or last summer are unlikely, bringing down case numbers will be challenging. For some countries, like the UK, high levels of infection will probably persist for the foreseeable future.


Despite the increasing numbers in England and Wales – possibly at least in part caused by the Test and Trace system fiasco – I still stand by this statement. The newest Scottish data seem to confirm this:

Scotland’s cases (black dots and blue lines) and deaths (red dots and red lines). Lines showing 7 days running mean.

The spike caused by the beginning of the school year (16th August) seems to be going down in children and young adults, although the cases have now stabilised. The older population (45+ years old) has experienced a delayed peak (an “echo” of the school-driven outbreak) followed by another small peak (return to work?), but again the numbers are not spiking up. Again, in The Conversation:

What we’re seeing now may be what the pandemic looks like in the weeks and months to come. Outbreaks may well be limited, with an increasing proportion of cases in the vaccinated population, simply because almost everybody is already vaccinated.


But of course, the cases are not going down either. This also seems to confirm what I said in my article:

What’s almost certain is that the pandemic will have a long tail that is massive and uneven, and which is likely to have a disproportionate impact on the vulnerable, those living in deprived areas and pregnant women. It’s also clear that vaccination alone won’t be enough to suppress the virus. Simple restrictions, like masks, vaccine passports or frequent testing, will continue to be part of our lives.


So – it is currently still quite an unstable situation, but perhaps there is a hope that the worst excesses of 2020 and early 2021 are not going to repeat themselves this winter.

But, I can be completely wrong.