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Debunked: No, this poster is not from the HSE telling people to report neighbours who do not wear a mask

A poster that falsely claims to have been published by the HSE is being shared on social media.

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AN IMAGE SHARED on social media of a poster that claims to have been published by the HSE is false.

An Irish Facebook page which shares anti-government material has shared an image in recent days of a poster that purports to be from the HSE, but the poster is not an official one and is not associated with the health service.

The poster includes an image of a magnifying glass with the text: “Is your neighbour wearing a mask? If not, report.”

Fake HSE poster mask reporting FB A poster that falsely claims to have been published by the HSE.

The post has been seen over 115,000 times since it was shared on 3 January.

The same photo has been reposted by other social media accounts on Facebook and Twitter.

One Facebook page from Nevada in the United States shared the photo with the caption: “What other countries are doing now – This will happen here if we don’t stop it.”

The photo bears some resemblances to official Covid-19 information published by the HSE – it features the HSE logo and uses the same colour as official images – but it is not a real poster published by the HSE.

Speaking to TheJournal.ie, the HSE confirmed that the poster is fake.

The HSE said it can “confirm that this is not a HSE sign/message”.

The phone number on the false poster - 01 671 9407 – is actually a fax number for the Irish Times.

A search using the Irish Times’ digital search tool shows that the fax number appeared on the paper’s “Writing to the Irish Times” opinion page as part of guidance for readers sending a letter to the editor in 2000 and 2001.

The text in the false poster is printed in uppercase letters, unlike official HSE signs, which use standard sentence capitalisation – uppercase letters at the start of sentences and where needed grammatically, and lowercase for other letters.

The HSE has published a range of visuals in different formats that relate to Covid-19, including booklets, posters, and social media graphics.

However, none of the visuals include the message in the photo shared on social media.

0001 An official poster on face coverings from the HSE Source: HSE

There is no law in Ireland that requires a face covering to be worn in private homes.

Face coverings are currently required by law while on or in public settings such as:

  • public transport
  • shops and shopping centres
  • libraries, museums and bingo halls
  • cinemas, theatres and concert halls
  • nail salons, hair salons and barbers
  • tattoo and piercing parlours
  • travel agents and tour operators
  • laundries and dry cleaners
  • bookmakers

Beyond those settings, the HSE advises the use of face coverings where a two metre social distance is difficult to maintain; in healthcare settings; while visiting someone at higher risk from Covid-19; and in crowded workplaces, places of worship, and busy outdoor spaces.

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The HSE recommends wearing a face covering because “Covid-19 is mainly spread through close contact and droplets that come from your nose and mouth. For example, when you cough, sneeze or talk loudly.”

“Wearing a face covering reduces the spread of these droplets. It also helps stop the spread of the virus from people who may not know they have it.” 

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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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