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England's success in the Euro 2020 tournament could be why Covid-19 case numbers are rising faster among men than women in the past two weeks, scientists say.
Imperial College London's React study – which tested 47,000 people in England between June 24 and July 5 – found "infection has risen substantially in all age groups under 75". Researchers said men were 30 per cent more likely than women to test positive for the virus.
One in 170 people tested positive for the virus – four times higher than the study's previous report on June 7, when one in 670 people were infected. The infection rate doubled every six days.
The study found that vaccinated men and women were much less likely to test positive for the virus than those who were not vaccinated.
Prof Steven Riley, the report's author, suggested the third wave of infection was being driven by increased indoor mixing.
"It could be that watching football is resulting in men having more social activity than usual," he 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."
Prime Minister Boris Johnson made mask-wearing voluntary as part of a landmark shift from "government diktat to personal responsibility".
The government is hoping the distribution of vaccines will prevent a major surge in hospital admissions and deaths.
More than 86 per cent of adults in the UK have received a first dose of a vaccine, while more than 64 per cent have received two doses, according to the latest figures.
The React report found that the Covid epidemic has grown in all parts of the country but most notably in London, where infections where eight times higher than the previous report's findings.
Vaccinated people under 65 were three times less likely to be infected than unvaccinated people of the same age.
“In spite of the successful roll-out of the vaccination programme, we are still seeing rapid growth in infections, especially among younger people," Prof Elliot said.
"However, it is encouraging to see lower infection prevalence in people who have had both doses of a vaccine. It is therefore essential that as many people as possible take up both vaccine doses when offered.”
Vaccine Minister Nadhim Zahawi said vaccinations were having "a significant impact on the spread of the virus".
"However, increases across all age groups highlight that even those who are fully vaccinated can end up sick in hospital," he said.
Chris Hobson from NHS Providers said hospitals may come under significant pressure as Covid case numbers continue to rise.
"As community infection rates of Covid-19 rise we've got more and more staff who are isolating," he told BBC's Radio 4 Today programme.
"If you've got a river that's pretty full and the ground is sodden all you need is a few extra cases of Covid and that river starts to overflow."
He said that health workers may need to prioritise treatment and some procedures could be reduced.
"We need to be fully aware of the risks we're running and the consequences of what we're doing," he said.
"There will be very significant pressure on the NHS and that means we won't be able to do everything."