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Debunked: No, 'Galway Hospital' hasn't circulated a message telling people to wear gloves at petrol pumps

Another WhatsApp message is being forwarded around many groups today.

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THE LATEST IN a series of WhatsApp messages being shared widely in groups around the country is one purporting to be passing on the news that “Galway Hospital” has circulated a message that Covid-19 “seems to be spreading quickly via petrol pumps”.

This is not the case.

Galway University Hospital – which is its full title, as there is no entity known as Galway Hospital – has not issued any such advice. And this specific message isn’t part of the HSE’s official advice when it comes to the coronavirus.

galway whatsapp

The short message being forwarded across WhatsApp groups and also being shared on Facebook says:

Galway Hospital here in Ireland have circulated a message this morning that Covid 19 seems to be spreading quickly via petrol pumps! They have asked people to wear disposable gloves or use a paper towel when filling up and dispose of straight away. Please share this vital piece of info.

As is common with other claims being spread on WhatsApp, it alleges to have come from an authoritative source – in this case “Galway Hospital”. 

Saolta University Health Care Group covers a number of hospitals, including University Hospital Galway, Merlin Park University Hospital and Mayo University Hospital.

A spokesperson for Saolta told TheJournal.ie this afternoon that “we’ve not issued any such advice”.

The spokesperson was aware of the message being circulated on WhatsApp and emphasised on a number of occasions that neither the hospital nor the hospital group had issued anything around that. 

Health authorities in Ireland dismissed the contents of the message when asked by TheJournal.ie.

At tonight’s daily press briefing, chief medical officer Dr Tony Holohan said “that isn’t the advice that’s been given out by the health authorities”.

“For the most part, personal protective equipment – gloves, masks – if you’re advised to wear them/use them by a doctor, you should,” he said. “Unless otherwise advised by a doctor, then there’s no need to wear masks, gloves routinely.”

On the issue of whether people should wear gloves or use a paper towel when using petrol pumps, the Irish Petroleum Industry Association has dismissed the advice of the WhatsApp message.

“Our members are implementing enhanced hygiene protocols in our service station shops,” the association said. “In line with HSE advice, our workers regularly wash and sanitise their hands and the areas customers interact with such as fuel nozzles, credit card PIN pads, door handles and food areas.

We are aware of messages being shared on social media and wanted to inform customers that pump handles are no more or less prone to the spread of infection than any other hard surface and to outline the significant steps we are taking to combat the spread of Covid-19 and keep our valued customers safe.

Another message being shared widely today on WhatsApp actually comes from Health Minister Simon Harris.

He reaffirms advice around washing hands and social distancing in the two-minute voicenote.

“This is a weekend to follow the public health advice,” he said. 

In a statement explaining the reasoning behind the minister using this means to communicate with people, a spokesperson said: “We have had numerous examples of misinformation being spread like wildfire on WhatsApp.

Minister Harris is trying to counter that fake news by sharing accurate information through WhatsApp. The Minister is using every platform possible to get out key public health messages during this pandemic.

So, to reaffirm. That message being spread around purporting to contain advice from Galway Hospital isn’t correct.

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 

However, as the public health authorities keep reminding us, we all have to take the necessary actions to prevent the virus spreading further. The HSE provides official guidance on that here

This evening, Dr Holohan reiterated that it’s important to listen to the trusted sources when it comes to health information during this outbreak.

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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. 

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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.
https://www.thejournal.ie/the-explainer-podcast-misinformation-whatsapp-5051465-Mar2020/

About the author:

Sean Murray

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