Young men could be spreading Covid by watching the footie with their mates at home, expert warns

YOUNG men watching the football at home with their mates could be spreading Covid, an expert has warned.

Professor Stephen Reicher, a member of the Sage subcommittee advising on behavioural science, said "people at home not taking precautions" are the main concern, rather than fans at the matches.

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Asked how people would feel about 60,000 potentially gathering at Wembley for a football match, he told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "Actually, interestingly, I think the major problem with football is not people at the matches, it's people at home not taking precautions."

The University of St Andrews professor said new data from Scotland shows the infection rate is now three times higher for young men.

"I saw data yesterday from Scotland showing that whereas two or three weeks ago, the ratio of males and females, men and women, who get infections is roughly the same, now it's about three times higher for younger men, and the obvious explanation for that is people meeting up at home, forgetting restrictions," he said.

Coronavirus is known to spread more easily inside with limited ventilation, and pals are likely to be sharing snacks and drinks, adding to the possibility of transmission.

There are still legal limits on how many people can meet inside and outside – up to 30 people can gather outdoors, but only two people, or two households, can meet inside.

The rules differ slightly in Scotland depending on the area –  six people from three households can meet indoors in some places, while eight people from four households can gather in others.

In Wales, household mixing inside private homes is still banned, except for support bubbles.

But Reicher said people had a right to feel confused by messaging from the Government.

He said: "The point is that 60,000 people at the match sends a message to 60 million, which is 'well if they can all meet together why can't we?

"If they're rammed together and leaping up and down and hugging each other when a goal is scored, why shouldn't we?'

"The most potent form of messaging, in fact, are the policies we put forward and we've got to think of those policies, not only in terms of what they do practically, but the types of messages they send and the ways in which they change behaviour.

"If we live in a society which tells us 'well, it's fine for 60,000 people to meet at Wembley', it's very hard at the same time to say to people, 'look, there's still a pandemic out there, and we've still got to be careful'."

It comes after England manager Gareth Southgate also criticised the Covid rules that left Mason Mount and Ben Chilwell out of the win over Czech Republic.

The Three Lions topped Group D after a 1-0 victory at Wembley on Tuesday – but were left without two key players due to restrictions that Southgate described as "full of contradictions".

The 50-year-old coach told ITV: "We just have to get on with it. It is a bizarre situation, they have spent 120 seconds too long in a fairly open space.

"It is full of contradictions for me but we will get on with it.

"Frankly, I don’t understand it at all because there are teams travelling around by planes, coach and by bus in enclosed spaces for hours and our two boys have been pinged. I really don’t get it."

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