SCOTLAND is nearing total elimination of new coronavirus infections, experts have said.

The Independent SAGE group have reported that the Scottish Government's “focus on elimination” has contributed to the progress in stopping people becoming infected.

Data presented by the group during a virtual conference this morning showed that Scotland and Northern Ireland's rate of new infections per million people was around one, whereas in England the rate is almost 10.

Steve Reicher, Professor of Social Psychology at the University of St Andrews, said the success was not just down to geography, but also the differing approaches between Holyrood and Westminster.

READ MORE: Nicola Sturgeon: Social distancing won't be lifted 'anytime soon' amid prolonged phase three 

He said: “In England we're seeing figures hovering just under 10 new cases per million per day. And in Scotland and Northern Ireland they are hovering just above one - it's a tenfold difference. If you want to make it even more stark, over the last four days in England 371 people died. In Scotland, there were two.”

Professor Reicher said that Scotland had some “natural advantages” such as being less densely populated.

“It's more rural. It's possible to cut off the islands and indeed closing off the ferries to the Western Isles meant that nobody has died there.There are some natural advantages, if you like, but you can't put it down just to that.” he explained.

He added: “In Scotland we've seen such a clear strategy, clearly articulated. Elimination is the aim and all objectives are geared towards driving things as low as possible.

“In England, the UK government hasn't been clear about the strategy, we don't see any about herd immunity by default, but nothing has been articulated at all.

“Instead, we see a series of ad-hoc openings, ad hoc relaxations before we have an adequate test and trace system. One of the clear differences between Scotland and England is the difference between an elimination strategy, and just drift.”

He praised Nicola Sturgeon's “slow, cautious approach to reopening” and “clear public messaging” as opposed to Boris Johnson's, which he said was going for “quick cheap headlines, such as 'Independence Day and Super Saturday.”

Prof Gabriel Scally, Independent SAGE group member and President of Epidemiology & Public Health section at the Royal Society of Medicine said Westminster was at a "fork in the road".

He explained: "We are at a fork in the road here, because in Scotland, in Northern Ireland and Wales to a lesser extent, there has been reasonably good control of the virus. Numbers are encouragingly low and heading in the right direction.

"England isn't in that position and a tenfold difference in terms of new cases and a ten-fold difference between England and Scotland in deaths as well in recent times is very, very worrying.

READ MORE: Nicola Sturgeon: Social distancing won't be lifted 'anytime soon' amid prolonged phase three

"We note that there is no strategy that we can see for actually dealing with the virus. There is strategy about dealing with the economy, and relaxing restriction on the economy and getting back to work, etc. But we cannot see the strategy for the virus.

"Our assessment of the situation is that we should not be throwing away the big advantage we have of several parts of the country being very nearly at elimination stage." 

A spokesman for the Prime Minister would not comment specifically when asked if Boris Johnson thought he had not done as well as Nicola Sturgeon in tackling the pandemic, but said: "If you look at the infection rate and the number of people sadly dying from the disease every day, it is declining. It has been regularly and consistently declining over the course of the past few months. We have eased lockdown gradually based on the latest scientific advice and that's what we will continue to do."