Fact check: COVID-19 has been proven to exist and is not a strain of the flu

A video showing a man making false statements about COVID-19 while attempting to remove a coronavirus patient from an English hospital continues to be shared online.

Reuters Fact Check. REUTERS

The original clip was filmed on Facebook live on Jan. 21 but was later removed. Surrey Police said on January 28 that an arrest had been made in connection with the incident (here).

This check focuses on a false claim about the coronavirus made by one of the speakers in the video.

The man says: “Everyone’s got coronavirus. It’s just another strain of the flu. COVID-19 has never been proven to exist.”

These statements are incorrect. Firstly, everyone does not have coronavirus. Analysis from data analysis firm Edge Health suggested on Jan. 11 that one in five people in England may have had coronavirus amounting to 12.4 million (here). This estimate is substantially higher than the 3 million confirmed reported cases from Public Health England (here, page 6).

Secondly, the novel coronavirus is not a strain of the flu. While there are similarities between seasonal flu and COVID-19, they are not the same. The flu is caused by an influenza virus, while SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, is a coronavirus (here). Among other differences, the mortality rate for COVID-19 is much higher than the flu (here , , here). Reuters has address previous claims comparing the flu with COVID-19 here , here and here .

Thirdly, COVID-19 has been proven to exist: the virus was identified by Chinese authorities on Jan. 7, 2020 (, after which its genetic material (RNA) was sequenced (here). As of publication, there have been over 100,000,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and more than 2,000,000 deaths reported to the World Health Organisation ( Reuters debunked false claims that the virus had not been identified or isolated last year (here and here).


False. The novel coronavirus was identified in January 2020 and is not a strain of the flu. There is no evidence suggesting everyone in the UK has caught it.

This article was produced by the Reuters Fact Check team. Read more about our fact-checking work here .