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Debunked: No, Ireland is not in a 'lockdown sequence' despite what this Facebook post says

The post claims the Irish government has been slowly implementing a country-wide lockdown since last Sunday.

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A FACEBOOK POST claiming that the country is gradually being locked down to contain the spread of Covid-19 has been widely shared online in the last few days. 

The post claims the Irish government has been slowly implementing a country-wide lockdown since last Sunday, with a full lockdown coming within the next week to 10 days. 

In the last two weeks, TheJournal.ie has reported on other bogus messages all claiming that the country is about to be put on lockdown. 

They are all false – you can read these pieces here, here and here.

Screenshot 2020-03-25 at 17.01.15 Source: Facebook

The latest post states: 

We have been in the process of a gradual lockdown since last Sunday. The government are implementing a gradual lockdown. It is to be announced tomorrow evening that All Gatherings in Public Parks Beaches etc will be banned under the advice of health experts. That will be the last of the restrictions until Phase 1 of lockdown will commence probably a week to 10 days once all the data shows on paper of what we all already know. This is not fake news you are in a lockdown sequence.

The status posted on Monday evening claimed that new restrictions would be announced by the government on Tuesday evening -  this speculation was true but had been reported by the Irish Times

As promised, the Taoiseach did announce new public health measures in three areas – preventing the spread of the virus, helping those who lost their jobs and new emergency legislation. These measures are currently in effect and will remain in place until Sunday 19 April. 

Among the measures to slow the spread of Covid-19 was the closure of all non-essential retail outlets, with restaurants and cafes told to close unless they can offer a take-away option. 

Under these measures supermarkets and pharmacies will remain open along with other retailers deemed essential; opticians, fuel stations, laundries, banks, post offices, credit unions and hardware stores.

The Facebook post also claims that all public gatherings in public parks and beaches will be banned which they have been if your group is bigger than four people.

Public places will remain open but some local authorities have closed areas where social distancing has become difficult. For example, the upper car park at Glendalough and both sides of the Sally Gap were closed due to “the sheer volume of traffic in the area”. 

The new measures don’t restrict the number of times a person can leave their home a day but people are being told not to exceed groups of four people. 

During the announcement, there was no mention of more restrictive measures being implemented but a lockdown did come up. The Taoiseach said he wouldn’t use the term at all. 

The term seems to mean different things for different countries, and what we need now is clarity, the Taoiseach said. “I think it’s a term that actually causes more confusion than clarity,” he said, so it’s not one he’ll be using.

Other countries have announced different levels of lockdown. In France, all cafes, restaurants and cinemas have been shut. Italy, the most affected country in Europe, has banned travel between regions unless it has been signed off by a medical professional.

The Facebook status claims that the latest measures in Ireland are a prelude to a lockdown of the country but Varadkar has previously stated that Ireland is following the South Korea model of social distancing, social isolation and contact tracing – this doesn’t include the locking down of the country. 

South Korea, which had been recording 500 to 600 new cases each day earlier this month, is now reporting 200 to less than 100 new cases per day.  

Through clear public communication and testing on a massive scale, South Korea appears to be effectively tackling coronavirus. You can read more about its efforts here.

The Taoiseach has also cited The World Health Organisation’s health emergencies director Michael Ryan who says every country’s focus should be on finding the people who have the virus and isolating them as quickly as possible, along with contact tracing. 

Ryan says that part of the risk for authorities is in putting too much emphasis on lockdowns without a plan in place for what’s required when restrictions are lifted.

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“If we don’t put in place the strong measures, the strong public health measures now, when those movement restrictions and lockdowns are lifted the danger is that disease will jump back up.”

Chief medical officer Tony Holohan said the measures, agreed by the National Public Health Emergency Team, had to be stepped up due to the fact more than 1,000 cases of Covid-19 have been confirmed in the Republic.

****

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 

About the author:

Adam Daly

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