Leo Varadkar urges the public not to believe or spread WhatsApp rumours in relation to coronavirus
It has really come to this.
Leo Varadkar has urged the Irish public not to believe or share unverified information in relation to coronavirus in WhatsApp groups, as it is "scaring and confusing people and causing real damage".
In a tweet posted on Monday morning, Varadkar urged people to get their information from official, trusted and credible sources, such as the HSE, the World Health Organisation and the Department of Foreign Affairs.
I am urging everyone to please stop sharing unverified info on What's app groups. These messages are scaring and confusing people and causing real damage. Please get your info from official, trusted sources. Follow @HSELive @hpscireland @WHO @merrionstreet @dfatravelwise
— Leo Varadkar (@LeoVaradkar) March 16, 2020
Vardkar's plea follows the circulation of a number of unverified rumours in recent days, including claims that the army would be manning the streets of Ireland from Monday onwards.
Other rumours that circulated on WhatsApp claimed that the HSE was going to tell people to "stockpile food", which was quickly debunked, while a message signed by a 'Dr. Tim' purportedly requesting that people cease taking certain medications was also revealed as a fake.
Minister for Health Simon Harris echoed Varadkar's plea and also urged the public not to get their information from "rumour and gossip".
You don’t need to get your advice & information from WhatsApp. Get it from Tony! Tony is our Chief Medical Officer. He is leading an incredible team working so hard to keep you safe. We will all get our advice from him as our @CMOIreland - not from rumour and gossip #ListentoTony https://t.co/lhXRpx5pTW
— Simon Harris TD (@SimonHarrisTD) March 16, 2020
The latest coronavirus update found that there is a total of 169 cases in the Republic Ireland, with 40 new cases being announced on Sunday night.
The death toll remains at two.
A directive was also issued by the government on Sunday evening, instructing that all pubs (including hotel bars) should be closing their doors until at least 29 March, effective immediately.