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Debunked: 'No substance whatsoever' to WhatsApp voicenote claiming Ireland is going into 'Status Red' lockdown

The Defence Forces has dismissed the widely-shared message as “irresponsible”.

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A WHATSAPP VOICENOTE being widely shared claiming that Ireland will go into a “Status Red” emergency lockdown on Monday has been dismissed as misinformation that is “unhelpful and irresponsible” amid the current coronavirus outbreak.

A spokesperson for the Defence Forces has told TheJournal.ie there “is no substance whatsoever” to this message also being shared on social media.

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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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The voicenote purports to be someone passing on a message to fellow members of the Defence Forces to “be in the barracks” early on Monday morning.

It tells listeners the equipment they’ll need to bring with them, and says the Taoiseach will make an announcement at 8am.

Following this “announcement” which “came down from HQ”, the army would be patrolling the streets to make sure the public is observing the lockdown, the message said. 

It also tells listeners to “enjoy the weekend” as the male voice signs off.

There is no truth to this message in any way, according to the Defence Forces spokesperson.

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What has happened is that Defence Forces members have been told to report to barracks on Monday and to be on standby to support civil authorities. They are under status yellow conditions.

It’s understood that members will be on standby in their barracks to provide whatever support is deemed necessary during the upcoming weeks. 

Members will likely be involved in Aid to the Civil Authority (ATCA) operations, which are nationwide assistance operations, similar to that provided during events such as extreme weather or during the Pope’s visit in 2018. 

Separately, a contingency roster is coming into effect for gardaí next Monday, with a limit on annual leave to no more than 5% of the force at any time, and 210 extra Garda vehicles have been hired. 

Around 325 Garda students at the Templemore Garda College will be sworn in next week, and deployed to Garda stations across the country in the coming weeks. Tutors and instructors at the Garda College will also be deployed for operational duties or essential services.

None of all this means that the country is going to into something called a “Status Red” lockdown.

The Defence Forces spokesperson added: “We stand ready to provide aid to civil authorities within our means and capabilities. Misinformation like this is most unhelpful and irresponsible.”

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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

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About the author:

Sean Murray

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