AFTER three months in lockdown, Boris Johnson has signalled an end to what he described as England's "long national hibernation", with pubs, hotels and restaurants set to open their doors to customers again from next weekend.

In Scotland, Nicola Sturgeon has outlined possible timings for hairdressers, cinemas, restaurants, pubs and beer gardens to re-open in July.

Life may remain far from "normal" for some time to come, but with summer upon us the tone is increasingly one of cautious optimism and a re-focussing on the economy.

As we leave lockdown further behind, it seems like a good time to consider how well or otherwise the UK - and Scotland -has coped with the pandemic so far. The evidence is not particularly reassuring.

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Most statisticians and public health experts believe that excess deaths are the fairest and most accurate way of drawing comparisons between nations and detecting a spike in mortality that the official Covid death count may miss.

Excess deaths are calculated by taking the total number of deaths - from all causes - which have occurred in a country (or town, hospital, region) over a particular period of time and comparing that against the average for the same period and place in the previous five years.

It cuts through the statistical noise to show in the starkest way possible the cost of a pandemic in terms of lives lost.

Not only as a direct result of a virus, but extra deaths from heart attacks, respiratory disease, strokes, cancers, and other ailments that are occurring above normal thresholds.

Data analysts at the Financial Times have led the field in creating some of the clearest charts illustrating the outcomes worldwide.

Their most recent excess deaths graphs, updated on June 23, show that the UK has recorded 65,700 excess deaths since the Covid outbreak took off in March - 49 per cent above the five-year average.

In Europe, only Spain is higher with 56% excess mortality and 48,400 extra deaths.

Sweden, famed for its more relaxed approach to social distancing restrictions, has recorded 26% excess mortality (5200 extra deaths) compared to neighbours Denmark (200 extra deaths equating to 6% excess mortality) and Norway, which - incredibly - has seen no excess deaths.

READ MORE: Social care workers twice as likely to die from Covid as frontline NHS staff

In terms of the global outliers, Peru and Ecuador are by far the worst hit in terms of excess deaths, with total mortality 141% and 122% respectively above normal levels.

Their comparatively small populations mean that the actual number of deaths above the average is still lower than the UK, however: 21,500 in Ecuador, and 28,600 in Peru.

At the opposite end of the spectrum there is South Africa, Israel and Iceland, who - like Norway - have experienced no excess deaths.

Crucially, all three appear to have had relatively small Covid outbreaks.

Iceland has just 10 confirmed Covid deaths, Israel 306, and South Africa 2,102.

So where does Scotland fit into this?

According to National Records of Scotland (NRS) data covering the period from March 9 to June 14 (weeks 11 to 24), there were 19,961 deaths from all causes - 4,907 more than normal. Or 33% above average.

That compares against a 44% excess death rate for the same 14-week period in England and Wales, according to Office for National Statistics data which currently goes up to June 12.

In care homes, the picture is even worse.

In England and Wales, the total number of deaths in care homes was 93% higher than average during weeks 11 to 24.

In Scotland, NRS figures covering weeks 12 to 24 indicate that care home deaths are up 77% on the five-year average, with an extra 2451 residents dying.

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These latter figures point to a curious anomaly.

In England and Wales, ONS figures say care home residents account for 30% of all Covid deaths, compared to 47% in Scotland according to NRS.

But the excess deaths data indicates that care homes south of the Border have actually fared worse during the pandemic, suggesting either that coronavirus deaths are being undercounted or residents there have been much more likely to succumb to other illnesses.

While some will hail being "less bad" than England and Wales as a victory, it is probably worth noting that Scotland's 33% excess death rate actually puts us ahead of the United States, where the total number of deaths has been 25% above normal.

On that comparison, Scotland's death toll is higher than a nation led by someone who touted inhaling bleach as a cure and where many of its poorest inhabitants would struggle to afford healthcare.

In the long-run perhaps Scotland's slower exit from lockdown will help to reverse some of the damage done by sticking too closely to the UK Government's sluggish path into lockdown at the outset.

But there was nothing to prevent the Scottish Government learning from China and Italy and imposing social distancing restrictions weeks earlier.