Coronavirus: Toby Young’s ‘herd immunity’ Telegraph column ‘significantly misleading,’ says press regulator

Conrad Duncan
·2-min read
Toby Young attends The Evening Standard Influentials Party to celebrate the 1000 most influential people in London, 2010 (Getty Images)
Toby Young attends The Evening Standard Influentials Party to celebrate the 1000 most influential people in London, 2010 (Getty Images)

An article by Toby Young which suggested that London was “probably approaching herd immunity” to Covid-19 last summer has been found to be “significantly misleading” by the press regulator.

The Independent Press Standards Regulator (Ipso) ruled this week that The Daily Telegraph must publish a correction for the July 2020 opinion piece, which suggested that the common cold could provide “natural immunity” to Covid-19 and called for an end to tight lockdown restrictions.

In a judgement published on Thursday, it found that the newspaper had “failed to take care not to publish inaccurate or misleading information” in relation to Mr Young’s claims.

The journalist, who has repeatedly questioned scientific consensus on Covid-19, claimed in the article that the UK could “dispense with pointless social distancing measures” during the pandemic.

In a statement given to the BBC, Mr Young admitted that he “may have been over-emphatic in putting the anti-lockdown case” but argued that advocates of restrictions were no less emphatic.

He added that he thought there was still an “open question” on whether herd immunity had been achieved in London, despite hospitals in the capital being under intense pressure this month.

Last week, London mayor Sadiq Khan declared a “major incident” in the city, warning that the local health service was “at crisis point”.

According to the latest figures from the government’s coronavirus dashboard, there were 37,282 Covid-19 patients in hospital across the UK on Friday, with 3,672 patients on ventilation.

In contrast, government figures showed only about 21,000 patients were in hospital during the height of the UK’s first peak back in April last year.

Earlier this month, Mr Young also admitted to the BBC’s Newsnight that he was “wrong” to dismiss the risk of a second wave of Covid-19 during the summer, when he claimed that the virus had “all but disappeared”.

However, he said that so-called “lockdown sceptics” still believed that major national restriction had “caused more harm than they had prevented”.

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