Care home deaths linked to coronavirus have fallen to a level last seen around the end of October, according to National Records of Scotland (NRS) statistics published on Wednesday.
The NRS figures show that in the last three weeks there has been a 62% reduction in care home deaths where Covid-19 is a confirmed or contributory factor.
For the first time since November, deaths of those aged 85 and over are now lower than deaths among 75-84 year olds, according to the NRS.
Between February 8 and 14, 323 Covid-related deaths were registered in all locations– a decrease of 54 fatalities from the previous week.
That means the number of deaths where coronavirus was a confirmed or suspected factor has now fallen for three consecutive weeks.
A further 113 deaths of patients who tested positive for Covid-19 have been announced since February 14.
In total, there have been 9166 coronavirus-linked deaths registered in Scotland.
Pete Whitehouse, director of statistical services at the NRS, said: “Over 9000 deaths have now been registered in Scotland where Covid-19 was mentioned on the death certificate and they represent loss and grief for families and communities across the country.
“Today’s statistics show some signs of progress, for the third consecutive week, we have seen a welcome reduction in the number of deaths. Deaths in care homes over the last three weeks have fallen at a faster rate than deaths in other locations.
“The number of deaths in the 85 and over age group have also fallen more steeply than younger age groups.
“There were 146 excess deaths across all locations in the last week, 12% above average for this time of year. This figure remains high, but has fallen steadily in recent weeks.”
The NRS statistics are published weekly and cover all deaths registered in Scotland where Covid-19 was mentioned on the death certificate.
They differ from the lab-confirmed coronavirus deaths announced daily by the Scottish Government because the NRS figures include suspected or probable cases of Covid-19.
Meanwhile, during First Minister’s Questions in the Scottish Parliament on Wednesday, Nicola Sturgeon said Scotland had recorded 64 deaths of coronavirus patients in the past 24 hours.
The death toll under this measurement – of people who first tested positive for the virus within the previous 28 days – is now 6828.
A further 1121 positive cases were also reported by the Scottish Government in the last 24 hours – 5.2% of those newly-tested.
There are 1317 people in hospital confirmed to have the virus, down 66 in 24 hours, and 99 patients are in intensive care, a decrease of one.
Sturgeon said: “Deaths overall have fallen now for three consecutive weeks. Deaths that occurred in hospitals have fallen over that three week period by 11% and deaths occurring in people’s own homes or other non-institutional settings have fallen by 29%.
“However, deaths in care homes, which were the early focus of the vaccination programme, have fallen by 62%.
“In fact, with the exception of one week at the end of August when there were only two Covid deaths registered overall, care homes accounted for a smaller proportion of overall Covid deaths last week than at any time since March of last year.”
The First Minister also pointed out people aged over 80 living in the community had been the next priority of the vaccination programme, after care home residents.
She said: “It is reasonable to take some heart from this because it strongly suggests the vaccine programme is having the hoped-for effect of reducing the death toll from the virus.”