THE second wave of Covid has left much of Europe in some form of lockdown, though the prevalence of the virus varies hugely between countries.

Scotland is at the lower end of the spectrum, roughly in the same ballpark as Ireland and Norway.

HeraldScotland: ECDC data on Covid rates, updated on November 21ECDC data on Covid rates, updated on November 21

Exact comparisons are difficult as Scotland calculates virus rates on a weekly basis whereas the European Centre for Disease Control (ECDC) uses a fortnightly barometer, which is inevitably higher as it incorporates twice as many days' cases.

As of Friday, Scotland was reporting a seven-day cumulative rate of 141 cases per 100,000 to 238 per 100,000 for the UK. 

On the ECDC 14-day cumulative measure Ireland was reporting 111 cases per 100,000 and 154 per 100,000 in Norway.

Across the continent the prevalence ranges from a low of 57 per 100,000 in Finland to a high of 1,210 in Luxembourg.

READ MORE: We're arguing over lockdown versus herd immunity - when the answer is test, trace, and isolate

Population density may play a part: there are 626 inhabitants per square mile in Luxembourg compared to only 49 in Finland, making it the third most sparsely populated nation in Europe after Iceland and Norway.

When the EU launched its ‘traffic light’ system in October, Finland was the only country to be rated green.

It is up to national governments to set their own Covid restrictions, but the idea was that citizens crossing borders from red or orange areas would have to be screened for Covid or quarantine, whereas those from green areas could be exempted.

Authorities in Luxembourg insist its apparently soaring Covid rate is actually a reflection of the most comprehensive mass testing regime in Europe. It is has carried out more than 2000 tests for every 1000 inhabitants, compared to 319 per 1000 in Finland and 509 per 1000 in the UK.


If Scotland was in the EU now, we would be rated red because our test positivity is still too high, at 6.3 per cent.

The traffic light system, which has faced some criticism for being overly strict, defines red zones as regions with more than 50 new infections per 100,000 if the test positivity rate is over 4% - or if the incidence exceeds 150 cases per 100,000, regardless of test positivity.

Only Orkney, Shetland, and the Western Isles would be rated green, whereas Glasgow - with 252 cases per 100,000 - is similar to Danish rates.

In a sign of the inconsistencies across Europe, however, the only parts of Denmark placed under full lockdown recently have been the seven provinces linked to the mink coronavirus mutation that can spread to humans. The restrictions were eased on Friday, including the re-opening of cafes and restaurants.

In the rest of Denmark, alcohol sales are banned after 10pm and in some areas there are 10pm curfews for bars, restaurants and nightclubs, but premises are not closed altogether.

READ MORE: Covid quarantine accommodation recommended for Scotland to cope with virus surge

Yet in Ireland - whose Covid rate is akin to the Danish average - people are limited to meeting with one other household outdoors, bars and restaurants are closed except for takeaways, and many non-essential shops and hairdressers are also closed.

Covid rates for the UK as a whole, at around 500 cases per 100,000 on the ECDC 14-day measure, are on a par with Spain where a nationwide curfew is in place banning residents from leaving their homes between 11pm and 6am.

Spaniards have been ordered to stay at home except for work and other essential purposes, such picking up medicines at a pharmacy.

From tomorrow, anyone travelling to Spain must have a negative coronavirus test from the previous 72 hours.

HeraldScotland: The Asia Pacific region has led the way in controlling the pandemic through a robust test, trace and isolate strategyThe Asia Pacific region has led the way in controlling the pandemic through a robust test, trace and isolate strategy

If we want to find an example of a country that has excelled during the pandemic, we have to look east.

The island nation of Taiwan, currently reporting fewer than one case per million population, realised early that strict border controls were the best way of keeping the virus out.

All arrivals are required to complete a 14-day quarantine in either a hotel or as a “digital quarantine” at home, where their movements are tracked via their mobile phones.


Anyone self-isolating is compensated with $33 (£25) per day, but fined $33,000 - equivalent to one million Taiwanese dollars - if they flout the rules.

Contact tracing is also rapid and comprehensive: 20 to 30 contacts have been traced for every confirmed case, compared to fewer than four in Scotland.

To date, Taiwan has recorded seven Covid deaths in a population of nearly 24 million. Scotland has recorded 629 per million.