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Debunked: No, this image does not show an official government announcement about the lifting of restrictions

This image has been shared widely on WhatsApp recently.

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AN IMAGE WHICH appears to show an official announcement about an easing of certain Covid-19 restrictions from 5 May has been dismissed as false by the government. 

The image, apparently a photo of a computer screen, is headed with the title ‘Change to Public Health Measures’. The content claims that some restrictions will be eased from 5 May and will be reviewed again on 5 June.

It says a number of restrictions will change, such as an increase on the 2km limit for exercise to 5km and allowing people aged over 70 to leave their homes for “safe walks” of up to 30 minutes a day. 

Here is the full image.

IMG-20200427-WA0000 (1) The image being shared on WhatsApp.

The Department of Health and the Department of the Taoiseach have both confirmed that this image does not reflect the official position. A decision on any changes to restrictions from 5 May has not yet been made.

Speaking on behalf of the Department of the Taoiseach, a spokesperson said: “We are aware of an image of a webpage purporting to be a government webpage outlining changes to the current Covid-19 restrictions.

“This is not a government webpage, no such outline was published, no decision on changes to restrictions has been made,” the spokesperson said. 

Decisions on the restrictions that apply will be made at the appropriate time following public health advice.

The spokesperson added that people should check the official government website, the HSE’s website and Merrion Street social media for information and updates.

A spokesperson for the Department of Health said: “No such changes have been made or drafted on the Department of Health website. Any screenshots containing such information have been altered.”

There is no evidence of this announcement on either department’s website and no release with this information was sent to media organisations. 

Minister for Justice Charlie Flanagan also tweeted today about a fake list he has seen, advising people to “treat messages circulating on social media [with] great care” and not to forward or re-post these messages. 

A spokesperson for the Department of Justice said the minister “doesn’t want to give further amplification to these kinds of tweets” when asked to clarify whether he was referring to the image debunked in this piece. 

Yesterday, the Chief Medical Officer Dr Tony Holohan said the decision on easing restrictions after 5 May had not yet been made. 

“It is down to the wire and I haven’t made my mind up,” he said.

Dr Holohan expressed concern that rates of improvement on key indicators of the disease had started to slow.

He acknowledged that things may change in the days leading up to the end of the current restriction period on 5 May.

Holohan chairs the national public health emergency team (NPHET), which will make a formal recommendation to the Government on whether the restrictions can be scaled back. 

The number of deaths from Covid-19 in Ireland rose to 1,102 yesterday after a further 18 deaths were reported by the Department of Health.

There were 386 new confirmed cases of Covid-19 yesterday, taking the country’s total to 19,648 since the outbreak began.

Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has said the government is preparing a roadmap plan on how to ease Ireland’s lockdown on a phased basis. 

There is likely to be two to three weeks between phases and each phase will be kept under review.

It’s expected the plan will be published this week, with any slight easing of the current restrictions potentially due to be announced on Friday. 

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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 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

Have you gotten a message on WhatsApp or Facebook or Twitter about coronavirus that you’re not sure about and want us to check it out? Message or mail us and we’ll look into debunking it. WhatsApp: 085 221 4696 or Email: answers@thejournal.ie   

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