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Debunked: No, the army isn't patrolling all the cities, towns and villages in Ireland because of Covid-19

There is a lot of misinformation about what is actually involved in Ireland’s Covid-19 measures.

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MISINFORMATION IS STILL spreading about the measures introduced to tackle Covid-19 – what is and isn’t allowed. 

One Facebook post, which has got over 1,000 shares, offers inaccurate guidance to people about the rules the government announced to tackle the spread of Covid-19.

“Gaurds [sic] and Army will Patroll all Cities, Towns, Villages across Ireland,” the post states.

It continues:

You can only leave your house to go to Work, To the Shop, Pharmacy, Post Office and to Exercise for no more than 1 Hour , If the Guards catch you outside without a valid reason they will fine you €30 or will Arrest you if you don’t comply with the Rules. You cannot go to other people’s house’s and must stay within 2km of your House.

Another post, shared nearly 300 times, makes an identical claim.

The post is not fully accurate. While new, unprecedented measures have been introduced, the post falsely describes what those rules actually are.

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Are the army and gardaí on the street?

The post claims that gardaí and the army will be on patrol in all cities, towns and villages across Ireland. It is true that thousands of gardaí on foot, bike and mobile patrol were out around the country in recent days and will continue to be a presence to ensure that people are staying at home and complying with the guidelines during the outbreak. 

But there are no plans as of now for either the army or the gardaí to patrol every town, village and city. 

The army may yet be needed to help with various services during the outbreak, but as things stand they are not patrolling any streets. 

When can you leave your house?

When it comes to reasons to leave your house, the post is broadly right. 

On Friday, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar announced the new measures, with more detail provided on Saturday.

He asked that everyone should stay at home, unless you are an essential worker. Other exemptions include: 

  • To shop for food or household goods or collect a meal. 
  • For vital family healthcare reasons  - social family visits are prohibited.
  • To take physical exercise individually or with children from the family

Anyone leaving for exercise will be required to stay within a 2km radius. On Saturday, Varadkar confirmed that people can travel beyond 2km if they need to go shopping or have to get medicine. 

Contrary to the post, there is currently no government guidance is given on how long you can exercise for. Instead, the government’s official advice states you can “even get out for some exercise but you are being asked to stay in your home as much as possible”.

There is currently no specified time limit from the government on how long people can exercise for. 

Can gardaí fine you or arrest you for not complying? 

The emergency legislation passed by the Oireachtas does have the potential to give gardaí significant new powers to enforce regulations designed to stop the spread of Covid-19. 

However, gardaí do not yet have these powers and have been relying on normal public order legislation to enforce the new restrictions. 

Most public order policing powers come from the Criminal Justice (Public Order) Act 1994 and the Non-Fatal Offences Against the Persons Act 1997.

A range of public order offences are included in this legislation, as well as fines and potential imprisonment if a person is found guilty. 

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has also stressed that he wants Ireland to be policed by “consent” a opposed to “coercion” during the crisis. 

Under the new legislation, gardaí could have new powers of arrest and potential imprisonment to use against anyone flouting or obstructing the measures to tackle the coronavirus. 

The legislation does mention Class C fines – which is a maximum fine of €2,500 if someone is convicted of an offence. 

However, there is no specific mention of a €30 in either the public order legislation or in the new emergency legislation. 

And while the Minister for Health Simon Harris now has broad powers to make regulations, none have so far been signed. 

For a full guide on what the legislation does and doesn’t say, you can read it in full here

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There is a lot of false news and scaremongering  being spread in Ireland at the moment about coronavirus. Here are some practical ways for you to assess whether the messages that you’re seeing – especially on WhatsApp – are true or not. 

STOP, THINK AND CHECK 

Look at where it’s coming from. Is it someone you know? Do they have a source for the information (e.g. the HSE website) or are they just saying that the information comes from someone they know? A lot of the false news being spread right now is from people claiming that messages are from ‘a friend’ of theirs. Have a look yourself – do a quick Google search and see if the information is being reported elsewhere. 

Secondly, get the whole story, not just a headline. A lot of these messages have got vague information (“all the doctors at this hospital are panicking”) and don’t mention specific details. This is often – but not always a sign – that it may not be accurate. 

Finally, see how you feel after reading it. A lot of these false messages are designed to make people feel panicked. They’re deliberately manipulating your feelings to make you more likely to share it. If you feel panicked after reading something, check it out and see if it really is true.

TheJournal.ie’s FactCheck is a signatory to the International Fact-Checking Network’s Code of Principles. You can read it here. For information on how FactCheck works, what the verdicts mean, and how you can take part, check out our Reader’s Guide here. You can read about the team of editors and reporters who work on the factchecks here.

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