The number of men aged in their twenties in England testing positive for Covid shot up during the Euro 2020 tournament, new figures show.
The gap between the number of men and women aged between 20-29 testing positive for the virus widened suddenly last week, according to official figures.
Public Health England (PHE) data showed 10,267 more young men than women caught the virus last week ahead of England’s finals clash with Italy.
A total 55,679 men in the age category tested positive last week, compared to 45,412 women in the same group.
The 20-29s are now leading Covid figures, as youngsters are among the last group to be vaccinated as the jabs extend to over-18s.
PHE figures for the week to July 11 showed young men and women had been testing positive at roughly the same rates during the pandemic.
But the gap began widening in mid-June, when the Euros began.
Scientists have pointed the finger at football revelling in the streets, homes and pubs for a rise in cases in recent weeks, as the numbers soared to the highest level in six months today with almost 50,000 new cases reported.
Images of huge crowds partying in the UK’s streets and crowding into London’s Wembley Stadium provoked widespread concern ahead of the final.
Scottish health authorities made a link between the Euros and a surge in Covid cases in recent weeks when 1,300 fans who headed south to London tested positive.
The rate for 20-29-year-olds of 747.3 cases per 100,000 people is the highest for the age group since the week to January 10, at the height of the winter.
PHE’s weekly surveillance report also showed cases are also now at the highest levels since the pandemic begun among teenagers.
Young people are likely to have only had one jab so far.
The rapid spread of the Delta variant has been blamed for the numbers of people testing positive after one or even two jabs.
While the hospitalisation and death rates have remained lower than the peaks of the pandemic, experts are sounding the alarm ahead of the planned unlocking on Monday, July 19.
Boris Johnson could be forced to order new lockdown curbs in five weeks, Professor Chris Whitty warned just days before Monday’s “Freedom Day”.
England’s Chief Medical Officer warned of a potential “scary” growth in hospitalisations which could leave the NHS “in trouble again surprisingly fast” once restrictions are lifted.
Speaking at a British Science Museum event, the top medic said doubling time for hospital cases was “around three weeks” and while the number of hospitalisations was “mercifully much lower” – it was “not trivial”.
He said: “We’ve still got over 2000 people in hospital, and that number is increasing.
“If we double from 2000 to 4000, from 4000 to 8000, to 8000 and so on, it doesn’t take many doubling times till you’re into very very large numbers indeed.”
Prof Whitty added that medics could soon be faced with “scary numbers again”, adding: “I don’t think we should underestimate the fact that we could get into trouble again, surprisingly fast.”
He warned more people could be fighting the disease in hospital “in five, six, seven, eight weeks’ time”, and went on: “They could actually be really quite serious… at that point if it looks as if things are not topping out, we do have to look again and see where we think things are going. “
According to PHE’s latest figures, Covid-19 hospital admissions in England stood at 4.4 per 100,000 people in the week to July 11, in the highest rate since the week to March 14.
Admission rates are highest in north-west England, with a rate of 10.5 per 100,000 – the highest since the week to February 21.
Among age groups, hospital admission rates are highest for those aged 85 and over (14.2), followed by 75 to 79-year-olds (8.1).
Two regions of England are also recording their highest rate of new Covid-19 cases since comparable figures began in summer 2020, when mass testing was first introduced across the UK.
The North East recorded 835.8 cases per 100,000 people in the week to July 11, while Yorkshire and the Humber recorded 462.7 per 100,000, according to PHE.
All other regions are recording their highest rates since January, the figures showed.