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Squeezing into a packed Tube train or sitting alongside fellow theatregoers might seem like obvious breeding grounds for Covid.

But a study by University College London (UCL) has found that, even before “Plan B” measures were introduced, some activities barely raised the risk of catching the virus.

Researchers surveyed more than 10,000 people to find out what they had been doing on a weekly basis between September and November last year, in which time nearly 900 were infected with Covid.

They found that those using a bus were 30 per cent more likely to have picked up the virus, while a taxi raised the risk by 19 per cent and an overground train or tram by 18 per cent. Yet there was no increased risk from using a London Undergound train.

Similarly, there was no good evidence of any increased risk for people who attended theatres, cinemas, concerts or sports events. Visiting a hairdresser, nail salon or a beauty parlour also appeared to have no impact on infection rates.

Map of UK’s seven-day Covid-19 infection rate, by local authority

However, researchers found evidence of increased transmission for people eating in restaurants and cafes, who had a 29 per cent greater risk of catching Covid. Going to a pub, bar or club more than once a week raised the risk by 28 per cent, and going to a party by 27 per cent.

Gymgoers also have a 27 percent increased risk of infection. Playing outdoor sports raised the risk by 36 per cent, although being outside at a pub, restaurant or cafe had no impact.

But by far the greatest risk was from going shopping – which more than doubled the risk of an infection – while leaving the house to go to work increased the chances of an infection by 20 per cent.

Writing about the results in a paper submitted to the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage), Prof Andrew Hayward and Dr Susan Hoskins of UCL said: “Both during periods of intense restrictions and no restrictions, shopping accounted for the highest proportion of infections acquired outside the home.

“Going to work and public transport use were also important predictors of infection. During a period of no restrictions, parties and hospitality were associated with increased risk indoors but not outdoors. Participating in sport indoors or outdoors was associated with increased risk, though this may relate to associated social activities.

“There was no good evidence of increased risk from attention cinemas, theatres, concerts of indoor sports events or for beauty services.”

The study was done before the Government brought in mandatory masks, social distancing and vaccine passports for larger events as part of “Plan B” measures which came fully into force on Dec 10.

However, the results may have been partially skewed because some businesses had brought in their own restrictions, with many hairdressers, cinemas and theatres still insisting on masks and leaving seating gaps between customers.

London Underground also made face masks a condition of travel prior to “Plan B”, although many people continued to travel without a face covering until it became a legal requirement.

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