Soccer Fandom May Be Driving Covid-19 Infections in English Men

Increased social mixing during the European Championship soccer tournament may be driving Covid-19 infections among English men higher than among women, researchers said.

Men in England had an adjusted 30% increased chance of testing positive compared with women from June 24 to July 5, according to a study led by scientists at Imperial College London. The risk of contracting the virus is normally fairly equal, and the difference could be linked to gatherings to watch the sports event, the researchers said in a news briefing.

“There’s lots of evidence that mixing inside is more likely to result in transmission than mixing outside,” Steven Riley, a professor of infectious disease dynamics at Imperial, said at the briefing. “It could be that watching football is resulting in more men having more social activity than usual.”

German Chancellor Angela Merkel last week suggested that the size of the Euro crowds at London’s Wembley Stadium should be limited, saying they might contribute to the virus’s spread. U.K. bars and pubs have also been filled with fans as England progressed to the latter stages of the competition.

Riley stressed that the study didn’t directly investigate the reasons for differences in rates, and that the link to the soccer championship is speculative.

“My first thought wouldn’t immediately be to the stadium and the immediate surrounds, it would be about the more general behavior of the population,” he said.

Infection rates in England quadrupled to 1 in 170 people compared with the group’s last round of research, which looked at the period of May 20 to June 7. Large increases were found in London and in groups of younger people, who are least likely to have received full two-shot vaccinations. The number of new cases is now doubling every six days, the report said.

The U.K. government is preparing to relax most of its pandemic restrictions July 19, as more than two-thirds of the population have received full vaccinations. Prime Minister Boris Johnson is working to return society to normal and encourage the public to “learn to live with this virus.”

Data from the report showed that vaccines, especially full two-shot regimens, are working to curb Covid. Infection rates for fully vaccinated people less than 65 years old are three times lower than in unvaccinated people of the same age, the report said.

England reached the finals of the tournament Wednesday, beating Denmark 2-1 at Wembley.

©2021 Bloomberg L.P.

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