Vaccines are starting to have a positive impact on the coronavirus death toll in Scotland, Nicola Sturgeon has said.
Official figures from the National Records of Scotland offer the “first hard evidence” of the impact of the vaccination programme, the First Minister said.
Deaths in care homes, which were the early focus of the vaccination programme, have fallen by 62%, with hospital deaths down 11% and deaths at home and other non-institutional settings down 29%.
Some 323 Covid-related deaths were registered between February 8 and 14 – a decrease of 54 from the previous week.
The NRS reported 9,053 deaths have been registered where Covid-19 was mentioned on the death certificate, as of Sunday.
Ms Sturgeon told MSPs that care homes accounted for a smaller proportion of overall deaths last week than at any time since March – bar one week in August.
“I think that is positive news, given the toll the virus has taken on our care homes,” she said.
She said the NRS figures show the largest reduction of deaths over the last three weeks was in the over 85 age group, with a drop of 45%.
People aged over 80 living in the community had been the next priority of the vaccination programme, after care home residents.
This is the “first hard evidence of the positive impact of vaccination,” she said.
Ms Sturgeon added: “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.”
The statistics also show that in the most recent week, February 8 to 14, deaths of those aged 85 and over were lower than those aged 75 to 84 for the first time since November.
More than 80% of deaths over the most recent week occurred in hospital (266), while 42 occurred in care homes and 15 at home or in non-institutional settings.
More than 1.3 million Scots had received their first dose of the coronavirus vaccine by 8.30am on Wednesday – an increase of 32,070 from the previous day.
Pete Whitehouse, director of statistical services at NRS, said: “Over 9,000 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.”
Scotland recorded 64 deaths from coronavirus and 1,121 positive tests in the past 24 hours.