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

Fact Check

  • by: Lead Stories Staff
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.

Want to inform others about the accuracy of this story?

See who is sharing it (it might even be your friends...) and leave the link in the comments.:

Lead Stories is working with the CoronaVirusFacts/DatosCoronaVirus Alliance, a coalition of more than 100 fact-checkers who are fighting misinformation related to the COVID-19 pandemic. Learn more about the alliance here.


  Lead Stories Staff

Lead Stories is a fact checking website that is always looking for the latest false, deceptive or inaccurate stories (or media) making the rounds on the internet.

Read more about or contact Lead Stories Staff

About us

International Fact-Checking Organization Meta Third-Party Fact Checker

Lead Stories is a U.S. based fact checking website that is always looking for the latest false, misleading, deceptive or inaccurate stories, videos or images going viral on the internet.
Spotted something? Let us know!.

Lead Stories is a:


Follow us on social media

Subscribe to our newsletter

* indicates required

Please select all the ways you would like to hear from Lead Stories LLC:

You can unsubscribe at any time by clicking the link in the footer of our emails. For information about our privacy practices, please visit our website.

We use Mailchimp as our marketing platform. By clicking below to subscribe, you acknowledge that your information will be transferred to Mailchimp for processing. Learn more about Mailchimp's privacy practices here.

Most Read

Most Recent

Share your opinion