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expert comment on COVID-19 data on prevalence and deaths in the UK

A comment from Professor Sheila Bird on COVID-19 prevalence and deaths data in the UK.


Prof Sheila Bird, Formerly Programme Leader, MRC Biostatistics Unit, University of Cambridge, said:

“Table 1, based on national proportions testing SARS-CoV-2 positive in the ONS Community Infection Survey shows that Omicron BA.2 has hit hard and earlier in Scotland when compared with Omicron BA.1 in Scotland [over 50% harder]; or versus Omicron BA.2 in England & Wales [three weeks earlier]. For the first time, England’s proportion testing Omicron BA.2 positive in the week of 10-16 April was significantly lower than the corresponding proportion at Omicron BA.1’s peak in the first week of 2022. In the most recent week, England’s prevalence is again lower than for Scotland or Wales.

Table 1: Variant-specific peaks in percent testing positive for SARS-CoV-2, as reported by ONS Community Infection Survey on 29 April 2022.

“Scotland’s COVID-mention deaths in mid-March 2022 (3-week total: over 500, see Table 2) exceeded Scotland’s 2-week Omicron BA.1 peak of 278 in mid-January 2022.

“Since Scotland’s Omicron BA.1 nadir of 64 COVID-mention deaths in the week ended 13 February 2022, Scotland’s tally of COVID-mention deaths to 1 May 2022 is around 1370 (likely total). What caused Scotland to be so hard-hit by Omicron BA.2?

“The Omicron BA.1 nadir for England & Wales (622 COVID-mention deaths) occurred later: in the week ended 4 March 2022. Since then, over 7000 COVID-mention deaths have likely occurred in E&W by 22 April 2022; and will top 8000 by 29 April 2022.

“The population of England & Wales is roughly 10 times that of Scotland but Omicron BA.2’s toll in England & Wales by the end of April 2022 is far short of 14,000 (10 times Scotland’s). By contrast, the countries’ respective 2-week Omicron BA.1 peaks differed by a factor of 10 (278 versus 2860) and so were roughly in accordance with respective population sizes.”

Table 2 for Scotland: all ages

Table 3 for England & Wales: all ages

Coronavirus (COVID-19) Infection Survey, UK: 6 May 2022


Deaths registered weekly in England and Wales, provisional: week ending 22 April 2022


Deaths involving coronavirus (COVID-19) in Scotland,mentioned%20on%20the%20death%20certificate.



All our previous output on this subject can be seen at this weblink:



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