PENSIONERS who have been vaccinated against Covid are mixing more than their unvaccinated peers, despite guidance not to change behaviour. 

The latest 'State of the Epidemic in Scotland' report warns that behavioural changes are also occurring among those over 50.

It comes as the report also shows that nearly one in 10 Scots in the youngest age group - 16-29 - have already had at least one vaccine dose. 

This will be mainly due to underlying health conditions or occupation, such as working in health and social care. 

The State of the Epidemic in Scotland report publishes data and projections once a week

The epidemic analysis is carried weekly for the Scottish Government, to model what is happening with infections and NHS demand, and how it is projected to change. 

The report notes that "changes in patterns of mixing and adherence to restrictions will impact on future case numbers". 

READ MORE: Why the Brazil variant turned the reliance on herd immunity on its head

Data from the Scottish Contact Survey, which measures the number of times and settings in which people mix and potentially spread Covid, feeds into the modelling.

Interactions "remained low throughout January and February" at an average of 3.1 per day, but in the two weeks to March 4 the report noted changes among over 50s and over-65s: 

The State of the Epidemic in Scotland report publishes data and projections once a week

The report also shows that while the prevalence of the virus remains highest for the 20-39 age group, this has fallen dramatically from a peak of nearly 450 per 100,000 in mid-January to just under 100 per 100,000 by early March. 

Among the over-80s, the prevalence of coronavirus infections by early March was also one of the lowest (along with the 60-79 age group), having previously been the second highest in mid-February.

This may indicate that over-80s are also being shielded from infection, not just serious illness, as a result of vaccination.

The State of the Epidemic in Scotland report publishes data and projections once a week

The report also highlights the differing virus rates by geography, and how this would tie in with the new stricter levels system which is expected to come into force in late April - but could be rolled out earlier.

There have been suggestions that the new levels system could be based on larger areas, such as health boards, or by grouping multiple local authorities into a single group.

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Based on the current prevalence, most of the Central Belt - excluding South Ayrshire - would fall into Level 3. 

The Highlands, Argyll and Bute, Moray, Aberdeen, South Ayrshire and Dumfries and Galloway would be Level 2.

In mainland Scotland, only the Borders and Aberdeenshire would meet the criteria for Level One, while Shetland and Orkney could be placed into Level Zero - effectively normal life, without any restrictions.

The State of the Epidemic in Scotland report publishes data and projections once a week

The Scottish Government has cautioned that the new levels system will not necessarily mirror the one used at the end of last year, however, which - for example - banned hospitality businesses in Level 3 areas from serving alcohol.

The report also shows that demand for hospital beds among patients who have tested positive for Covid in the past 28 days continues to fall faster than even the best case scenario of modellers. 

The State of the Epidemic in Scotland report publishes data and projections once a week

However, they caution that it is too early to evaluate the impact of schools returning from February 22 on infections and potential NHS demand. 

The report also notes that there have been a total of three known cases of the Brazilian P1 variant detected in Scotland for the first time. 

Three of these are known to be oil workers who had been working in Brazil from December until January 29, when they flew back to Aberdeen. 

In addition, there are up to 19 cases of the South African variant in Scotland (17 confirmed and two probable); five cases of a different Brazilian variant, 'P2'; and two confirmed cases of another UK variant, VUI-202102/03.

This variant - also known as B.1.525 - was first detected in England in December and has not previously been found in Scotland.

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It was first identified by Edinburgh University scientists and shares similarities with the highly prevalent Kent variant (B117).

However, it also has a number of mutations which have worried researchers, including the E484K mutation to the spike protein which can help it to evade antibodies.

The report adds: "There is some concern, mainly based on laboratory analysis that these variants may partially escape immunity, from both natural infection and from vaccines currently being deployed, and we are monitoring the evidence on this."