The ONS study reported that one in 25 people in England had the virus, compared to one in 40 in Scotland. However, during the period it covered rules were broadly the same on both sides of the border, with Scottish changes coming into force on Boxing Day and Dec 27.
Many regions of England were also broadly in line with the Scottish estimate, with the figures skewed by very high rates in London, where the ONS estimated that one in 15 people had the virus. At various points in the pandemic, the same study, which is published weekly, has shown Covid to be more prevalent in Scotland than England.
“It’s ridiculous for John Swinney to claim data from before extra restrictions came into effect proves his restrictions are working,” Alex Cole-Hamilton, the leader of the Scottish Lib Dems, said.
“The Deputy First Minister has form for twisting data to save face. When people’s livelihoods are on the line, it’s important that ministers are transparent about what the data actually shows. There’s no shame in changing plans when the evidence changes.”
On Tuesday, 1,147 people were in hospital with a recently-confirmed case of Covid. Data is due to be published on Wednesday, following weeks of pressure, showing how many are in hospital because they are ill with Covid, and how many tested positive after being admitted for other reasons.
Figures published by the Scottish government show that just one person with the omicron variant required intensive care treatment as of Dec 31.