Fact check: The SARS-CoV-2 virus has been identified and studied by scientists globally

A video falsely claiming that COVID-19 does not exist has been shared online. The 12-minute clip shows Irish former journalist and activist Gemma O’Doherty standing outside Ireland’s Department of Health with what she says is “proof” the novel coronavirus isn’t real.

Reuters Fact Check. REUTERS

The video was posted to Facebook on Nov. 15 but the caption carries a dateline of Nov. 2, 2020 (here). O’Doherty herself has been blocked by Facebook and Twitter, according to Irish news reports (here , here) .

Various claims and opinions are expressed by O’Doherty. This article addresses some of the primary claims, but others made in the speech are outside the scope of this check.

O’Doherty says in the video: “We now in Europe for the first time have scientific proof that it (the novel coronavirus) does not exist” (here , skip to 02:18).

She holds an alleged response to a Freedom of Information Request (FOI) from the UK’s Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) and says: “They confirmed, and I will read it out now to you, that the DHSC does not hold any information on the isolation of a SARS-CoV-2 virus. In other words, it does not exist” (here, skip to 02:50).

Reuters confirmed that an FOI matching the contents described in the video was sent to the DHSC on Nov. 2 but could not find the response O’Doherty describes (here). The DHSC was not immediately available for comment.

However, SARS-CoV-2 does exist. The World Health Organisation (WHO) says that SARS-CoV-2 is the name of the virus that causes the disease COVID-19 (here). The virus was identified by Chinese authorities on Jan. 7, 2020 (here). It has since been studied by numerous researchers globally, just some of which are referred to here .

There have been over 60 million confirmed cases of COVID-19 and over 1.4 million deaths globally as of Nov. 24 ( , here).

O’Doherty makes numerous other false claims about the pandemic that have been debunked by Reuters. These include:


False. Researchers globally have studied SARS-CoV-2 since it was first identified. The virus is real and this video does not present proof that the COVID-19 pandemic is fake.

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