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There are a bunch of hoax statements and rumours flying around about COVID-19: Here's how to differentiate fact from fiction

As soon as you hear the words "a friend of a friend who knows someone told me..." - run.

By Jess Pullar
If you've spent the last few days feeling a little overwhelmed with information about COVID-19 from various media outlets, work emails and even friends, you're not alone.
While we all navigate our way through this unsettling period with a new, albeit temporary norm, it's easy to latch on to any piece of information that gives us any sense of certainty for what's to come.
That's why you'll no doubt have come across at least one jarring statement from a peer, pal, co-worker, or even social media, telling you about the government's so-called "next steps".
While everyone is experiencing varying degrees of fear and lack of control, it's important that we try our very best to keep a level head and not panic in these uncertain times.
But when these rumours begin to fly, it's to be expected that people will latch onto them, and incidentally, begin to, well... panic.
So, to help you differentiate between the fact and the fiction, we've outlined some simple steps that will help you get to the bottom of the sensational claims being thrown left, right and centre - because fear mongering and rumours is the last thing we need right now.
Unless it comes straight from the Government, take any rumour with a large grain of salt. (Getty)

Check the correct websites

If you've heard an update about Coronavirus that hasn't come straight from an official statement, we strongly urge you to hop online several websites that have all of the latest information.
Your first port of call is a government-run website. You can double check this by ensuring it has '.gov.' in it's URL.
In Australia, the government is updating this page, every day, throughout the day.
It includes a plethora of information about the virus itself, how it spreads, how you can get help if you think you have symptoms, and additional advice on the Government's latest plans.
If you were planning to travel in the near future, or know of someone who is travelling in or out of the country, you can check Smart Traveller for the latest updates in this realm.
The website details everything you need to know around the restrictions to incoming and outgoing passengers - as well as exactly what a 'Level Four Travel Ban' actually means.
Check back on websites with ".gov" in the URL for official information. (Getty)
If you're a parent or student, the very latest updates on schools and universities can be found on each state Government's official website under the education sections.
For example, the Victorian Government's education website, which can be accessed here, includes information for students, guardians, and teaching staff alike.
For any other official updates to quell any rumour you may come across, simply check the Prime Minister's official media centre, where releases and information are released daily.
Finally, for globally relevant information including stats, warnings and tips, your best port of call is the World Health Organisation wesite.

Check the sources

If you've heard something from a friend or acquaintance that hasn't been published on any of the aforementioned websites, firstly, take it with an Australian-land-mass-sized grain of salt.
To get to the bottom of it, it's always important to fully check their source.
This is where we can fully pop our investigative hat on.
If the person telling the rumour simply got the information from a friend of a friend, who is unable to name their source, it's likely the rumour has no basis - especially if nothing on the internet stipulates the feat.
If the person telling the rumour say they got the information direct from "a friend" or "an acquaintance" in the government - again, we urge you to check the above websites for confirmation - if it's not online, it's highly likely the information is false.
Another way to double, triple check if anything is true? Simply take a direct quote from the so called "statement" that has been sent, screenshot, or dictated to you.
Hop onto Google and pop the quote into quotation marks, which will minimise the search to the exact phrase, and if nothing comes up to match it, you can guarantee it's another rumour.
Incidentally, we ourselves tried the above technique on one such rumour, which did bring up a matching 'government' statement found online... the only thing was, it was posted on a Reddit page, and the statement had a number of comments from users kindly asking the poster to reveal their "brilliant" source.
Here's hoping that will give you some peace of mind!
Now is not the time for Gossip Girl copy cats. Check the source before passing on any information that hasn't come straight from the government. (CW)

Don't panic - we will be informed of any updates as soon as we need to be

It sounds easy, but it's understandable in a climate like ours to get a little overwhelmed when you're hearing snippets of information left, right and centre.
But it's important to remember that while we all would love to know exactly what's going to happen, this situation is a very complex one, and is ever-evolving.
That said, the government is constantly monitoring the situation, taking advice from other authorities and making decisions based on this.
They will inform us as soon as we need to be informed of anything.
Not only that, but should any drastic announcement be made, they will give us time to process and prepare.
So the next time you hear one of those rumours, try not to panic, and especially don't panic buy a bunch of supplies from the supermarket for fear of a complete shut down.
We're all in this together, and we will all work it out together.
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