Care home deaths are continuing to “decline significantly”, the Health Secretary has said, pointing to the impact of the vaccination programme.
Jeane Freeman spoke after statistics from the National Records of Scotland (NRS) showed 9,580 people have died with confirmed or suspected Covid-19 throughout the pandemic.
There were 227 deaths relating to Covid-19 were registered between February 22 and 28, down 64 on the previous week.
Of these, the majority happened in hospital at 187, with 26 in care homes and 14 at home or in a non-institutional setting and one in another institution.
The statistics are published weekly and cover all deaths registered in Scotland where Covid-19 was mentioned on the death certificate.
They differ from the lab-confirmed coronavirus deaths announced daily by the Scottish Government because the NRS figures include suspected or probable cases of Covid-19.
Speaking at the Scottish Government’s coronavirus briefing, Ms Freeman said: “Deaths in care homes continue to decline significantly and last week made up just over 11% of all Covid deaths.
“This does provide further evidence that vaccination may be reducing the number of people dying from Covid.”
Just under half of all care home residents have now received their second dose of the vaccine, she said.
Scotland’s chief medical officer, Dr Gregor Smith, also said there were “incredibly encouraging” signs of the impact of the vaccination programme on Covid-related deaths.
He said the NRS data showed a 77% in care home deaths in the five weeks to February 28, compared to 38% in hospitals.
Dr Smith said: “I think that is significant and though we can’t wholly attribute that to the impact of vaccination programme it certainly gives us confidence something is happening there which is an additional layer of protection.
“I think it’s reasonable to speculate the vaccination programme has had quite a significant impact on that from the other data we have as well.”
According to the NRS figures, care home deaths went from 111 on the week beginning January 18 to 26 on the week beginning February 22.
Dr Smith said a potential risk was “selection pressure” – where the virus counteracts immunity in the population by evolving in ways which can escape immune systems.
He said: “It’s really important that alongside the vaccination programme, we continue to suppress the virus as much as is possible to make sure we allow seldom opportunity for the virus to further evolve.”
The Health Secretary also said it was still too early to be completely confident about how vaccination affected transmission of Covid-19, despite “optimistic” early signs.
Any decisions on the pace of easing restrictions would depend on a variety of data, she said.
Ms Freeman also announced an expansion of asymptomatic community testing into a further 24 areas, where people can be tested without showing coronavirus symptoms.
She said about 10,000 of these asymptomatic tests had been carried out so far, identifying 250 positive cases.