By Democrat reporter
Deaths linked to coronavirus in Scotland have fallen to the lowest level since the start of the pandemic, with just six registered last week.
New figures from the National Records of Scotland showed the number of deaths falling for the twelfth week in a row.
In the week to Sunday 19 July, the virus was mentioned on six death certificates.
At the peak of the outbreak in April, more than 600 deaths were being logged each week with links to Covid-19.
The NRS said there had been a “significant decline” in the number of deaths, which were now at “the lowest weekly total since the pandemic began”
The latest report said the virus had been registered as a confirmed or suspected cause on 4,193 death certificates.
At her coronavirus briefing, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said the weekly total of deaths was “the lowest we have seen since we started to record them”.
She said: “Today’s report shows once again that Covid-19 has been driven, as of now, to very low levels in Scotland.
“But the figures also remind us that more than 4,000 people have lost their lives to this virus, and we must always remember that each of those deaths was of a unique and irreplaceable individual.”
Ms Sturgeon also warned that an outbreak in North Lanarkshire was “a clear reminder that Covid has not gone away”, and that “it does not take much for a small number of cases to become a much bigger number”.
She added: “While public health teams are working incredibly hard to contain outbreaks, it is not just their job – each and every one of us has a part to play in keeping this virus at bay.”
Deaths linked to Covid-19 accounted for less than 1% of deaths recorded by NRS last week, down from a peak of 36% in late April.
However the total number of deaths registered has risen back above the five-year average, by 32 “excess” deaths, after several weeks of below-average figures.
Across the period of the pandemic, the number of deaths in care homes has been 54% above the five-year average, and the number of deaths at home or in non-institutional settings 53% above average. However after an early peak, hospital deaths fell back to average in May and are now below average levels overall.
The first minister also said only 0.3% of coronavirus tests were coming back with positive results, well below the 5% threshold at which the World Health Organisation considers outbreaks to be “under control”.
However she sounded a “note of caution” about virus restrictions being eased further, saying the current phase of lockdown could last “considerably longer” than previous ones.