English men were around 30% more at risk of contracting coronavirus between July 24 and July 5 - and scientists think that the Euro 2020 football tournament could be to blame.
According to the latest study released on Thursday by Imperial College London, around one in 170 people had the virus in England between June 24 and July 5.
This is four times higher than during the previous study period, which ran from May 20 and June 7, with scientists estimating that the number of people testing positive has been doubling every six days.
"In the most recent data, the risk among men was around 30% higher than that among women, which may reflect different patterns of social mixing in England between men and women," the study notes.
Professor Paul Elliott, director of the React program at Imperial’s School of Public Health, speculated that men gathering at homes and pubs to watch the football was a reason for the trend.
The study was conducted before tens of thousands of spectators watched England beat Denmark 2-1 in a semifinal match on Wednesday evening at London's Wembley Stadium. England's win prompted scenes of wild jubilation elsewhere as fans celebrated the national team making its first final in a major tournament since the 1966 World Cup. In Sunday’s final, England will play Italy, again at Wembley.
The study found that the epidemic has grown in all parts of the country but grew most in London, the capital, with an eight-fold increase.
Rates of infections were three times lower in fully vaccinated people under the age of 65 compared to unvaccinated people, although both groups saw a similar proportionate rise in infections.
The biggest rise was observed in children aged 13 to 17, with infections eight times higher than during the previous study period, with around one in 70 infected.
Scientists concluded that the "results indicate that England is now experiencing a substantial third wave of infections."
As of July 5, 86% of people aged over 18 in England had received as least one dose of the vaccine with 64% receiving two doses.
Steven Riley, Professor of Infectious Disease Dynamics at Imperial, stressed in a statement that "although the vaccines offer good protection against infection and severe disease, vaccinated people still have a risk of becoming ill from the virus and infecting others."
According to government data, more than 32,000 people tested positive on in the 24 hours to Wednesday afternoon and over 192,000 new infections were recorded over the previous seven days — a 42.8% increase on the previous seven-day period.
The number of hospitalisations and deaths have also surged by more than 40% week on week but remain much lower than during the second wave with 33 fatalities recorded on Wednesday.
More than 94% of infections in the UK are caused by the Delta variant, which originated in India, and which has been found to be up to 60% more transmissible than the Alpha variant.