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FACTCHECK

Debunked: Visiting restrictions at Tallaght Hospital are due to viruses, despite conspiracy theories

An outbreak of COVID-19 and Norovirus has sparked claims of coercion and genocide

VISITING RESTRICTIONS AT Tallaght University Hospital announced last week have become the focus of conspiracy theories, sparking anti-vaccine protests outside the hospital’s entrance.

The theories have been shared widely on Facebook and X/Twitter. Some of these theories claim that the visiting restrictions are a way to coerce people into taking vaccines in order to be allowed to visit patients in the hospital. 

Other theories claim that the restrictions are secretly part of a new “lockdown” to prepare the Irish population for widespread restrictions on travel, like those seen at the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic. 

These claims have no basis in fact, however. The visiting restrictions were brought in due to outbreaks of Covid-19 and norovirus in hospital wards.

“Perhaps the biggest question of all of is this: should we allow the government to do any kind of lockdown again?,” Ben Gilroy, who ran as a candidate for European elections in 2019 and has previously spread misinformation about the Covid-19 pandemic, said in a video shot at the hospital, where he suggested that mRNA vaccines were linked with “ever-rising excess deaths.”

The video has been viewed 49,000 times on Facebook and 727,300 times on X.com, according to metrics on those websites.

Gilroy described the visiting restrictions as a “lockdown” and part of the HSE’s “Covid bullshit”, and urged non-compliance with “more coercive behaviour to get jabbed”.

He also rallied against “experimental medicines” being given to children, before saying “We have a situation here again, where the elderly will suffer and the parents [will be] frightened into compliance.”

Other claims were even more extreme. “This is the biggest crime against humanity that has ever been inflicted on us,” one anti-vaccine activist who filmed himself protesting outside the hospital said, describing the Covid-19 vaccines. “The Irish government are committing genocide on their own people.”

Pointing toward the hospital, he shouted, “These people in here are preparing the groundwork for more vaccination. That’s what they’re doing. They’re pumping more fear into the Irish people through the hospitals, because they’re coming again with more Covid-19 vaccines.”

Other conspiracy theories about the hospital restrictions shared online included claims that they were being used as cover to treat large numbers of people who were injured by vaccines, as well as a claim that it is part of a plot to establish electronic voting so the government can steal the next general election.

In any case, the restrictions in the hospital have little to do with vaccines, vaccine injuries, lockdowns, or elections, but are a response to an outbreak of viruses on the hospital’s wards.

“The visitor restrictions were put in place as there are a number of outbreaks of Covid and norovirus in wards in the hospital and are in line with Infection Prevention & Control best practice,” a hospital spokesperson told The Journal. “This is to protect our patients, their families and our staff.”

Ben Gilroy dismissed this on X.com. “We used to call norovirus the winter vomiting bug because it was around in winter due to people’s immune system being low due to lack of fresh fruit and veg in winter and lack of VitD due to lack of sunshine. But it’s the middle of June and we have a winter vomiting bug?? Why are people’s immune systems compromised in the summer? Hmm, what could it be?? Any ideas??”

Gilroy is correct to say that norovirus is sometimes called the winter vomiting bug, but is an outbreak in June evidence that something suspicious is going on? No. While norovirus tends to be seasonal, it spreads throughout the year.

Records of Irish norovirus outbreaks in the summer can be found far before the advent of Covid-19. Cases can be seen in the UK too: in August of 2017, competitors at the world athletics championships in London withdrew from the competition due to a large outbreak of norovirus.

Visitor restrictions at Irish hospitals, prompted by norovirus outbreaks have also been recorded throughout the year, including the height of summer, in years prior to mRNA vaccines and the Covid-19 pandemic.

However, what of the claims that the restrictions have been put in place to encourage people to take vaccines?

“Absolutely not,” a spokesperson for the hospital said when asked if there are any rules on vaccinated visitors having less restrictions than unvaccinated ones. “There are no ‘rules’ regarding vaccines and access.”

The hospital also confirmed that there is no approved vaccine for norovirus – making it an odd choice for a conspiracy to promote them.

Claims of a coverup are also unfounded, as are comparisons with the previous lockdowns, given that the hospital does not restrict patients from leaving.

“A patient at any time can discharge themselves from the hospital,” a spokesperson said. “If they do this against the advice of their medical team they will be asked to sign a form confirming they have made this decision against medical advice.”

The hospital spokesperson also confirmed that exceptions to the restrictions could be made in exceptional circumstances.

“The restrictions apply to general visiting,” they said. “Visiting for end of life or compassionate cases is permitted by arrangement with the Clinical Nurse Managers on the different wards.”

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