COVID deaths in Scotland have fallen for the first time in seven weeks.

The figures, from National Services Scotland, are the latest to indicate that the third wave of the pandemic is easing with confirmed cases and the number of infected patients in hospital also declining.

According to NRS, there were 46 Covid deaths in Scotland in the week ending August 1 - down 10 on the previous week.

Of these, ten deaths occurred in people aged 45 to 64, including four women and six men.

The remainder all occurred in people aged 65 and over, including 13 patients aged 85-plus and 14 aged 75 to 84. 

HeraldScotland:

However, there were also warnings that the overall number of deaths from all causes is significantly higher than would normally be seen at this time of year.

In total there were 168 excess deaths in Scotland last week, compared against the five-year average for the same week. 

Pete Whitehouse, Director of Statistical Services, said: “NRS figures released today show that last week, there were 46 deaths where COVID-19 was mentioned on the death certificate.

"This is a decrease of 10 on the previous week's figure and represents the first decrease in Covid-19 related deaths in seven weeks.

“However, the total number of deaths from all causes was 17% higher than we would expect for this period, and these 'excess' deaths are at the highest level since February."

Excess deaths have been rising steadily in Scotland since late May, amid reports from A&E departments that they have been seeing an unusual number of patients presenting with complex and chronic conditions which had worsened or gone untreated during the pandemic, including undiagnosed cancers. 

Of the 168 excess deaths, 43 were circulatory deaths - such as fatal strokes or heart attacks - and 23 were dementia deaths. 

There were also four excess cancer deaths, 11 non-Covid respiratory deaths, and 50 classed under "other" causes - an umbrella term covering everything from accidents, assaults and self-harm to illnesses not covered by the listed categories. 

Separate data released by Public Health Scotland shows that an estimated two thirds of Scotland's population had antibodies for Covid by the week ending July 5. 

This ranged from 89.9% in the 60-plus age group to 24.1% in 0-19 age group, and is based on an average from blood samples collected in primary care settings over a five-week period and used to extrapolate estimates for the population as a whole. 

Antibodies can indicate either prior infection or vaccination against Covid, including after a single dose, but levels of immunity will vary. 

A PHS report on Covid meanwhile shows that there were a total of 375 hospital admissions among patients testing positive for the infection in the week ending July 27, down from a peak of 613. 

More than half (57%) were patients aged 50 and older, but admissions are falling across all age groups. 

HeraldScotland: Source: Public Health ScotlandSource: Public Health Scotland

Due to vaccinations, the proportion of people being admitted to hospital within 14 days of a laboratory confirmed positive Covid test has declined from a peak of 13% in the week ending January 31 to 4% by the week ending July 18.

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Of the 7,963 confirmed Covid infections in the week ending July 30, 46% were individuals who had not yet been vaccinated and 31% were in people who had had both doses. 

This partly reflects that the fully vaccinated population is disproportionately older and more likely to experience symptoms as a result of infection, whereas younger people - who are also more likely to be unvaccinated - have higher rates of asymptomatic infection which tends to go undetected. 

PHS adds: "The COVID-19 case rate remains higher in unvaccinated individuals compared to vaccinated.

"In the last week, the case rate in unvaccinated populations was 370 COVID-19 cases per 100,000 individuals, compared to 84 COVID-19 cases per 100,000 individuals vaccinated with 2 doses."

HeraldScotland:

On hospital admissions, however, the PHS report notes that there were 305 Covid patients in the week ending July 30 where vaccination status is known, with admissions highest among the fully vaccinated. 

There were 144 admissions for patients who had had both doses compared to 136 for those who were unvaccinated. 

Both the Pfizer and AstraZeneca vaccine reduce the risk of hospital admission with the Delta variant by more than 90%, but those who are fully vaccinated are much more likely to be older and, in the event of a breakthrough infection, to be at risk of more serious Covid illness than unvaccinated younger people.  

HeraldScotland:

However, rates of hospital admission were still higher in unvaccinated than vaccinated individuals. 

The PHS report states: "In the last week, 5 out of every 100,000 vaccinated individuals were admitted to hospital and had a COVID-19 positive PCR test 14 days prior, on admission, or during their stay in hospital, compared to 14 out of every 100,000 unvaccinated individuals."

On deaths, the report notes that there have been 140 Covid deaths in individuals who tested positive more than 14 days after they were fully vaccinated - equivalent to 4% of the 3,462 confirmed Covid deaths in Scotland since December 29.

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The report adds: "The risk of death from COVID-19 is strongly linked to age, with the most vulnerable being in the over 70s age group.

"In Scotland, from the beginning of the COVID-19 vaccination programme over 2.9 million individuals have been fully vaccinated with two doses of COVID-19 vaccine.

"Of these, 140 individuals (0.005%) tested positive by PCR for SARS-CoV-2 more than fourteen days after receiving their second dose of COVID-19 vaccine and subsequently died with COVID-19 recorded as a primary or contributing cause of death.

"Most of these individuals had several other contributing causes of death listed on their death certificate.

"Of the confirmed COVID-19 related deaths in individuals that have received two doses of COVID-19 vaccine, 85.0% were in the 70 and over age group."