An MP as welcomed a ruling which demanded national newspapers print corrections of a claim ‘Pakistanis was the origin of half of Britain’s imported virus cases’.

The headline, ‘Pakistan singled out as the origin of half of Britain’s imported virus cases’, first appeared in the Daily Telegraph, and was then repeated by the Sun newspaper and the Mail Online site. It failed to make clear that the data was only relevant from 4th June to the date of publication on 26th June - and implied the data was relevant to the entire length of the pandemic, as well as ignoring data on imported cases by UK nationals from Europe.

Debbie Abrahams, MP for Oldham East and Saddleworth wrote to IPSO in July 2020, and also raised the issue in Parliament. She said: “I’m pleased that IPSO have made this ruling about the headline which had no basis in fact and no reference to expert evidence and, in my view, amounted to irresponsible, offensive and racist reporting.

“Any press outlet including national and local newspapers has a responsibility under Clause 1 (Accuracy) of the Editors’ Code of Practice to make sure that they do not publish inaccurate, misleading or distorted information or images, including headlines not supported by the text., and these reports clearly breach that.”

It was only in the body of the text that the Telegraph stated that ‘data from Public Health England showed 30 cases of coronavirus in people who have travelled from Pakistan since June 4, which is understood to represent half of the incidents of imported infection’.

Debbie added: “While it is correct that, over three weeks in June, contact tracers at Public Health England (PHE) detected about 30 cases of someone suffering from COVID-19 having recently arrived from Pakistan, this was a drop in the ocean in a period when new COVID-19 cases of all kinds in England were occurring at a rate of 22,000 per week.

“What is more, the Telegraph, in claiming that cases from Pakistan accounted for half of all ‘imported infections’, provided no evidence for this claim whatsoever.”

The correction printed by the Telegraph read: “CORRECTION: This article is based on PHE data relating to individuals who have travelled to the UK from Pakistan between June 4 and the article's publication date (26th June): it does not cover the entire period of the pandemic, as readers may have inferred from its original headline and text wording, now amended.”