International travel single biggest factor in high covid death rate in UK, finds Scottish research

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THE UK’s high covid death rate is linked to international travel, according to new Scottish research.

A study carried out at Aberdeen University found that cross-border arrivals had the biggest impact on covid fatalities in the first wave of the pandemic.

An increase of a million international arrivals was associated with a 3.4% increase in the mean daily increase in COVID-19 deaths.

Tiberiu Pana. Picture: Aberdeen University

The team examined a range of factors including population density, the percentage of people living in urban areas, age, average body mass index and smoking prevalence.

They then compared these to mortality rates across the 37 countries most severely affected by the first wave of the pandemic.

First author of the study, Tiberiu Pana, said: “We found that international travel was the strongest predictor of mortality increase.

“Our assessment of available data indicates that very early restrictions on international travel might have made a difference in the spread of pandemic in western Europe, including the UK.

“These findings are particularly important as the world looks to control future waves and strains of the COVID-19 pandemic and prevent related deaths.”

Explaining the background to the study, he added: “The initial spread of the virus in early 2020 appeared to affect different countries unequally, with the United Kingdom and other western European countries being especially affected.

“We were interested to understand the country-level factors that influence the spread of the pandemic.”

He added: “Another factor which appeared to play an important role was country-level BCG vaccination coverage, increases in which may be associated with decreases in death rates.”

The work was supported by the University of Aberdeen and the Aberdeen Clinical Academic Training Scheme.