Did Liverpool v Atletico cause a COVID spike?

Study by researchers at Oxford University and the University of Edinburgh found multiple COVID-19 infections entered the UK in March from Europe – but how big a factor was Liverpool v Atletico? Tony McDonough reports

Liverpool played Atletico Madrid in a Champions League tie at Anfield on March 11


A new academic study into the source of coronavirus infections in the UK has found a significant number originated in Spain, France and Italy from late April and well into March.

Carried out by researchers at Oxford University and the University of Edinburgh as part of the COVID-19 Genomics Consortium, the study identified 1,356 lines of transmission that came into the UK from other countries during that period.

It has estimated that 34% of those infections came from Spain, 29% from France, 14% from Italy and 23% from other countries. Until mid-March up to 20,000 people a day were arriving by air into the UK from Spain alone.

On March 11, Liverpool played Atletico Madrid in a Champions League tie at Anfield. Around 3,000 Atletico fans made the journey from Madrid which, at that point, was already under partial lockdown. So did this cause a spike in COVID infections?

Perhaps, surprisingly, the study does NOT reach that conclusion, saying: “Individual events, such as football matches, likely made a negligible contribution to the overall number of imports at that time. Large-scale and longer-term trends in prevalence and mobility are much more important.”

The report added: “Peak importation intensity was highest for Spain because there was a window of time when large numbers of inbound travellers from Spain coincided with high prevalence (of the virus) there.

“France has the second-highest peak. These results contrast with media coverage of importations that focused more on the earliest importation events, from China and east and southeast Asia.

“Early importations were indeed likely to originate from those locations but constitute a tiny fraction of all importation events that resulted in detectable UK transmission lineages.”

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