This time last year we featured an article on Covid-19, to help understand the statistics behind the pandemic and how the UK and Scotland were performing compared to other countries around the world. At the time, the UK had one of the worst per capita Covid death rates in the world, after a slow and incoherent early response, whereas a small number of countries who reacted more definitively saw many fewer deaths. Another year on, much has changed, not least the wide rollout of the vaccine, but it can still be difficult getting clear information, so we thought it would be helpful to look again at the statistics.

Globally the virus is still prevalent, now surpassing 5.68 million deaths compared to 2.19 million this time last year, an increase of 160% year on year. The number of daily new infections globally has risen to around three million new cases per day, so the chance of further mutations remains high. At the height of the pandemic last year this figure was around one million.

The UK death rate (per capita) is still relatively high, though several countries, especially around eastern Europe, have seen deterioration in their success in limiting the virus, so the UK’s position is less stark than it was. The biggest change of the last 12 months has been the successful introduction of vaccines. This has undoubtedly helped reduce mortality but as infection levels have increased so substantially, the number of deaths is still increasing.

This time last year there had been 100,162 deaths from Covid in the UK. When I wrote this article (in January 2022), according to UK government statistics there were 151,987 deaths within 28 days of a positive Covid test (or 174,233 deaths if you count those which state Covid as the cause of death). Both figures help evidence that the rate of people dying after becoming infected has fallen over this period, from 2.7% of infections across the UK to around 1% currently. It is likely that this is in part at least a result of more testing, but it is most likely a testament to the success of the vaccines.

In Russia, where vaccination levels sit at only 47.8%, the number of deaths in this second year have increased from 71,076 in January 2021 to 321,990 in January 2022. The USA, India and Brazil have all seen at least double the deaths of the first year of Covid too.

In the UK as a whole, 71.7% of people are ‘fully vaccinated’ (at least two jags). This compares favourably with the global average (51.7%) and with the US (63.5%), and is comparable with many other western countries. France and Italy have vaccination rates of around 76.3%, and Portugal has 90.5%. In the developing world, access to vaccines has been much more restricted. In Egypt, vaccination levels are sitting at 25.2% and in Bangladesh 35.9%, but countries like Nigeria and Ethiopia are only sitting at 2.5% and 1.4% respectively. The problem with any virus, of course, is that it will mutate anywhere, so this level of global non-vaccination remains a risk for all of us, and risks ever more variants.

According to the Office for National Statistics, in England at least, over the period 1 January to 31 October 2021, the age-adjusted risk of deaths involving Covid-19 was 96% lower in people who had received a second dose compared with unvaccinated people.

In Scotland, we have the highest rate of vaccination in the UK (74.4%), the lowest infection rate, and the second-lowest death rate (after Northern Ireland). Although we have lost over 10,000 people to Covid since the beginning of this crisis, the measures taken appear to have been more effective than those in England, which has had a consistently higher death rate per capita. By contrast, New Zealand, which has a similar-sized population, has seen only 52 deaths over the same period, and now the vaccines are available, hopefully will not ever have to face the same toll that many in Europe have paid.