Covid Scotland: Spike in cases 'very clearly' linked to football fans travelling for Euros match, health expert says

The rise in positive coronavirus tests in Scotland is “very clearly” linked to Scotland fans travelling to London for the Euro 2020 match against England, a public health expert has said.

Martin McKee, professor of European public health at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, said the spike in positive cases “coincides very much” with the incubation period of the virus after the match at Wembley on Friday June 18, which finished 0-0.

He was asked if the Euros tournament was “acting as some kind of super-spreader with the number of fans that have been travelling around the continent”.

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Prof McKee told BBC Radio Scotland’s Good Morning Scotland programme on Friday: “I think you in Scotland know very clearly that that is the case.

“We also have another example of Finnish fans who went to one of the Euros matches and 300 of them were infected.

“We can see very clearly in the Scottish data, because the increase coincides very much with what you would expect with the incubation period after the match but also the gender difference, because the cases, the increases seem much greater in men than in women.

Scotland fans in Leicester Square, London, ahead of the UEFA Euro 2020 Group D match between England and Scotland last month picture: Kirsty O'Connor

“So I think when you put those two together it’s pretty clear that’s what’s been happening.”

Thousands of Scotland fans travelled to the UK capital for the fixture last month despite warnings not to if they did not have a ticket.

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Scottish Government figures published on Thursday show there were 4,234 positive tests over the past 24 hours – meaning the country recorded more than 4,000 positive tests for the first time since the start of the pandemic.

Data from Public Health Scotland published on Wednesday showed there were almost 2,000 people who attended a Euro 2020-related event while infected with the virus.

National clinical director Jason Leitch said travelling fans had undoubtedly contributed to Scotland’s recent spike and that the 2,000 figure was likely less than the true number.

Prof Leitch said: “To keep it in perspective, there were 32,000 positives since the Euros began.

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“And 2,000 of those positives, in their Test and Protect interviews, say they were at something to do with the Euros.

“So that will be an underestimate, some won’t have told us that, some won’t have appreciated that was important.”

Prof McKee added that the Delta variant of Covid-19 was “much more transmissible”, adding that “we need to be really very vigilant about it.”

He added “the vaccine is less effective against the Delta variant” than against the previously dominant Alpha variant.

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Prof McKee said: “If you look at people vaccinated with the AstraZeneca vaccine the protection goes down from about 73% to about 60% while the Pfizer vaccine goes down from about 92% to 79%.”

He went on: “Hospitalisation numbers are going up.

“The probability of being hospitalised with Covid is clearly much less than it was during earlier waves.

“But the fundamental point about any epidemic is that the cases and the consequences of the cases, hospitalisations and death, are either going down, in which case you can be happy – or they’re going up, and if they’re going up then you would be unhappy and you would be concerned.

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“If they’re going up you need to do something to try and turn that around. It’s just simple mathematics.”

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