Increased group gatherings to watch the Euros could be why men are a third more likely to test positive for Covid than women, according to Imperial College London’s latest REACT study.
Results from the REACT-1 study, which tested more than 47,000 volunteers across England, showed a significant increase in infections between 24 June and 5 July.
One in 170 people in England tested positive for the virus in that period, and men were 30 per cent more likely to be infected than women – the first time scientists have made a gender distinction in case rates.
“It could be that watching football is resulting in men having more social activity than usual,” report author Professor Steven Riley told journalists.
London had the highest case rate increase of all English regions, where the prevalence of the virus increased eightfold from last month’s round of the study for the period 20 May to 7 June.
The Delta variant, which is understood to be more transmissable, was responsible for the majority of cases, and the number of people infected with the virus in England doubled every six days on average.
Infection rates for double vaccinated under-65s were three times lower than in unvaccinated under-65s, which “demonstrated the impact of the vaccination rollout”, the study said, and young people between the ages of 13 and 24 were most likely to be infected.
Scientists warned that more indoor socialising as restrictions were eased was a major factor behind increasing infections – and what formed the link between Euros watching and Covid cases.
“There’s lots of evidence that mixing inside is more likely to result in transmission than mixing outside,” Professor Riley said.
“If I had to speculate about the impact of the Euros […] I would think about the increased probability that people are mixing inside more frequently than they otherwise would.
“So my first thought wouldn’t immediately be to the stadium and the immediate surrounds, it would be about the more general behaviour of the population, but we don’t have results that speak to that directly in this study.”
It comes a week after nearly 2,000 new Covid-19 cases in Scotland were linked to football fans watching Euro 2020 fixtures.
Public Health Scotland (PHS) said two-thirds of the 1,991 cases recorded last week were people who travelled to London for Scotland’s game against England on 18 June.