The home secretary used the term to refer to the current situation while discussing restrictions during lockdown.
It sounds odd because pandemics, by their very nature, relate to health.
Some Twitter users found the use of the term at the briefing unhelpful and speculated it was a way to avoid answering questions.
Patel first said: “We are in a health pandemic right now. Everyone has to be conscientious in their actions and almost act and behave as if we have Covid, therefore restricting all our social contacts. So the rules are clear.”
Later in the press conference, she added: “The fact of the matter is we are in a pandemic, we’re in a health pandemic.
“You have already heard me say the number of people that have passed away, died, 1,243 fatalities reported today, when we have people dying, when we have people tragically succumbing to this virus, we all have to exercise our judgement and be very conscientious as to how we act.”
The World Health Organization previously defined a pandemic as “the worldwide spread of a new disease”.
Social media users asked why Patel kept using the term.
Some questioned if there was another type of pandemic they had not previously heard of.
Others mocked the use of the phrase.
And some claimed Patel was avoiding scrutiny.
WHO director general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus first announced the Covid-19 outbreak could officially be declared a pandemic almost a year ago on 11 March 2020, which is the highest level classification.