Fact Check: WHO Did NOT Declare COVID-19 Pandemic Without Official Document

Fact Check

  • de: Jurnaliștii Lead Stories
Fact Check: WHO Did NOT Declare COVID-19 Pandemic Without Official Document Follows Process

Was the COVID-19 pandemic declared by the World Health Organization (WHO) in the absence of an official document, making the declaration illegal? No, that's not true: WHO is the sole authority empowered to declare a pandemic, and the justification for this declaration did not solely rely on press briefings by Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus. Other supporting documents were also considered.

The claim originated from a video (archived here) on TikTok by user @mcleons on October 3, 2023, featuring a talk show appearance by Romanian MEP Cristian Terheș. It opened (translated from Romanian into English by Lead Stories staff):

Western governments have restricted freedoms and administered vaccinations forcefully, without a legal basis. WHO did not release an official document declaring the pandemic, it was all press releases.

This is what the post looked like on TikTok at the time of writing:

Screenshot 2023-10-06 at 16.14.52.png

(Source: TikTok screenshot taken on Fri Oct 6 13:08:04 2023 UTC)

While it's not always clear when an epidemic should be declared a pandemic, the WHO follows specific procedures and phases before making such a declaration.

In the case of COVID-19, an 18-member committee was convened -- the International Health Regulations (IHR) Emergency Committee for COVID-19 -- and on January 30, 2020, declared that the outbreak constituted a Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC). This was the official announcement that meant signatory states should report suspect outbreaks to WHO and support its responses, although WHO had no way to enforce those rules.

The March 11, 2020, public declaration Ghebreyesus made was a consequence of the PHEIC, not the sole official announcement that validated the pandemic. The IHR Committee continued to convene every three months to evaluate the evolution of the pandemic.

Terheș, a Romanian member of the European Parliament, is known for his anti-vaccine, anti-restrictions rhetoric, and his claims have been previously debunked by Lead Stories.

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Lead Stories lucrează cu Alianța CoronaVirusFacts/DatosCoronaVirus, o coaliție de peste 100 de fact-checkeri care luptă împotriva dezinformării legate de pandemia COVID-19. Află mai multe despre alianță aici.

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