Covid: Watching Euros may be behind rise in infections in men

England’s Euro 2020 progress could be behind infections rising faster among men than women in the past two weeks, Imperial College London data suggests.

The React study, which tested more than 47,000 volunteers across England between 24 June and 5 July, confirms a “substantial third wave of infections”.

And the men were 30% more likely than the women to test positive for Covid.

The infections had not translated into a large number of people in hospital or dying, however, the study found.

And vaccinated men and women were much less likely than others to catch the virus.

“It could be that watching football is resulting in men having more social activity than usual,” report author Prof Steven Riley said.

“The small number of people who are double jabbed and experience symptoms should continue to get tested so we all play our part to stop the spread of this awful virus.”

The report also found:

  • prevalence of the virus had risen from 0.15% in early June to 0.59% in early July
  • big rises in infections across all age groups under 75 and especially among younger people
  • 1.33% of the 13-17 and 1.4% of the 18-24-year-olds were infected
  • London had seen the largest increase in infections – to 1.08%
  • vaccinated under-65s were three times less likely to be infected than unvaccinated people of the same age
  • two vaccine doses gave 72% protection against a positive test result

The study results show a similar pattern to the Office for National Statistics (ONS) survey data published weekly, which also uses tests of people in the community.

“We are entering a critical period with a number of important competing processes,” the report says.

They include:

  • the continued vaccination rollout to the whole adult population
  • increased natural immunity through infection
  • reduced social mixing of children during school holidays
  • more mixing outdoors during summer

In addition, on 19 July, the government is lifting all remaining Covid restrictions in England – including all legal limits on social interactions and rules on numbers of people attending large events and performances.

Face coverings will also no longer be mandatory indoors, although people are advised to wear one where necessary.

Future infection rates were difficult to predict, the researchers said.

But the prime minister has made clear cases are expected to rise as society opens up.

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React programme director Prof Paul Elliott, from Imperial’s School of Public Health, said: “In spite of the successful rollout of the vaccination programme, we are still seeing rapid growth in infections, especially among younger people.

“However, it is encouraging to see lower infection prevalence in people who have had both doses of a vaccine.”

It was essential as many people as possible took up both vaccine doses when offered, he added.

‘Curb transmission’

Almost two-thirds of adults – 64% – have now had both doses.

Covid-19 Vaccine Deployment Minister Nadhim Zahawi said: “It is hugely encouraging to see the vaccination rollout is having a significant impact on stopping the spread of the virus.

“I urge everyone to get their first and second dose when invited, as every jab helps to curb transmission and serious illness.

“The small number of people who are double jabbed and experience symptoms should continue to get tested so we all play our part to stop the spread of this awful virus.”

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