Daily Covid cases are on track to top 100,000 before Freedom Day as football fans drive a ferocious surge in infections, research shows.
The UK’s largest study tracking the spread of the virus has found that cases have quadrupled over the past month.
Imperial College London’s React survey, based on random swab testing of more than 150,000 Britons, estimated infections are doubling every six days.
Yesterday, another 32,548 positive tests were reported in the UK, the highest daily figure since January 24.
If the epidemic is doubling every six days, as researchers believe, that means there will be more than 100,000 a day when legal restrictions are lifted on July 19.
There were another 33 deaths reported and 386 hospital admissions, up 44 per cent in a week.
Daily Covid cases are on track to top 100,000 before Freedom Day as football fans drive a ferocious surge in infections, research shows
The study found that one in 170 people tested positive for the virus between June 24 and July 5.
But infection rates are three times lower among the double-jabbed and are mainly confined to younger adults. The study found that men are 30 per cent more likely to test positive for Covid-19, which experts believe is due to them gathering indoors to watch football.
The Government had previously presented figures estimating that cases were doubling every nine days but the Imperial study suggests the virus is spreading even more rapidly.
Infections have risen eight-fold in London over the past month, and the authors said the capital’s rapid rise could be linked to Euro 2020 matches at Wembley.
Lead author Professor Steven Riley said: ‘I think the degree to which men and women are socialising, is likely to be responsible.
‘It could be that watching football is resulting in men having more social activity than usual. If I had to speculate about the impact of the Euros I would first think about the increased probability that people are mixing inside more.
‘My first thought wouldn’t immediately be to Wembley Stadium, but more about general behaviour in the population.’
The study concluded that cases of Covid-19 are increasing in all age groups and regions as England experiences a ‘substantial third wave of infections’. But it also shows that vaccines continue to offer a high level of protection.
Cases are highest in those aged 13 to 24, with about 1.3 per cent testing positive. This is ten times higher than in over-75s. Researchers said they hope the rollout of vaccines to younger age groups should soon begin to flatten the rapid growth. Infection rates are three times higher in unvaccinated under-65s than among those who have received both doses.
Although the vaccine offers high protection, the study found that cases are on the rise for people who have been jabbed. About one in 400 over-65s who has been double jabbed tested positive. Co-author Professor Paul Elliott said: ‘Even though the vaccine is effective and it’s a fantastic vaccine, it’s not a perfect vaccine.
‘The proportion of people over 65 and double-vaccinated who are testing positive is increasing.
‘Even though it’s great news that we’re seeing consistent high levels of protection of the vaccines we are not seeing the absence of infections in [the] vaccinated group.’
Health Secretary Sajid Javid said: ‘As we unlock society… we will inevitably see cases rise significantly over coming weeks.
‘It is more important than ever to get that life-saving second jab so we can continue to weaken the link between cases, hospitalisations and deaths and build a wall of defence against the virus.’
It comes as experts writing in the British Medical Journal warn that government plans to make vaccines mandatory for care home staff is ‘unnecessary, disproportionate and misguided’. From October, all those working in homes registered with the Care Quality Commission must have two doses, unless they have a medical exemption.
It is a controversial decision, with sector leaders warning about the impact it could have on already stretched staffing levels.
Lydia Hayes, professor of law at Kent University, and Allyson Pollock, professor of public health at Newcastle University, write in the BMJ: ‘Civil liberty is a necessary component of strong public health.
‘Mandatory vaccination… will not remedy the serious shortcomings of the care sector in England.
‘Care workers need paid time in which to access vaccination and good training, decent wages (including sick pay), personal protective equipment, and strong infection control measures.’