"Right lads I've just got the message there," the anonymous and unverified Whatsapp message begins.

"We've to be in the Barracks for zero six hundred on Monday morning."

And on he goes, whoever he is, in pseudo military style about people needing to be "fed and shaved" (he doesn't specify in which order).

He says they will need their "wetkit, warmkit" (note the alliteration) and that "An Taoiseach will make the announcement at zero eight hundred hours that the country is in a statis (sic) red emergency" (whatever that is).

In other circumstances, this online declaration might be considered laughable but unfortunately it has been taken seriously by so many normally calm and sensible people that last night the Chief of Staff of the Defence Forces, Vice Admiral Mike Mellet, felt compelled to issue a statement on Twitter rebutting this type of nonsense.

"The primary focus of Óglaigh Na hÉireann" he said, "is supporting the HSE fight against Covid-19. Our women and men will provide support in planning, tracing, driving, testing and much more like providing FACTS " - his capital letters.

"Get your facts from credible sources. Do not amplify fake news"

It is perhaps the most sensible online post in the two weeks that Ireland has had to deal with this new and frightening pandemic.

The reality is that contrary to the misinformation and disinformation, the trolls and the anonymous keyboard warriors, there are no plans to put members of the Defence Forces on the streets.

However, in spite of a clear dismissal of these false claims by Dr Tony Holohan on RTÉ's Nine News last Friday night, they continue to be circulated and most worryingly believed.

As the Chief of Staff said, the Defence Forces are currently supporting the HSE.

They have 80 cadets working primarily as call-takers and are acting as "an aid to the civil authority". In this case, that authority is the HSE.

The Defence Forces are not moving to "red alert" as our online warrior called it.

They are moving to a "yellow alert" stage next Wednesday but this is nothing to be alarmed about. It is simply about being prepared.

It means that the Defence Forces will have teams ready to respond to any request for support from the HSE.

People may therefore see members in uniform driving trucks and helping out like they have done in the past during strikes and heavy snow.

The Chief of Staff has stressed that the HSE is the lead agency in the fight against Covid-19 and the Defence Forces stand ready to provide any help that they can.

The same applies to gardaí and other State agencies, but these too are not immune to the hoaxes and fake news circulating on social media.

"Take what I'm gonna tell you as Gospel next" proclaims another one. Again, it's anonymous and unverified. The person speaking doesn't show their face but screen shots a picture of a white light, as if pointed at someone being interrogated.

"My best friend was in a meeting today ... with An Garda Síochána, the HSE, the Defence Forces … "

Hearsay - the lawyers call it; second hand talk or gossip to you and me.

What makes this proclamation different is that there are some elements of truth in it.

These only serve as a foundation for the false statements designed to frighten people.

The speaker says the gardaí is hiring cars and this is true. The Garda Commissioner said at a press conference last Friday in Garda Headquarters they were hiring 210 new cars and vans.

They were pictured in the newspapers and on the television news.

But then the 'WhatsApp proclaimer’ goes on to claim that "the army will be patrolling the city to deter people from looting", a statement that is completely at odds with the statement by the Garda Commissioner.

Drew Harris urged people to remain calm, not to engage in panic buying and stated quite clearly that he did not foresee a situation where looting would arise.

The Commissioner’s statement was widely reported in the credible, verifiable and regulated news media; the newspapers, RTÉ, Virgin Media News, Newstalk and other radio stations.

If people don't trust the news media, they can go direct to source to the Garda Facebook page and social media accounts and hear for themselves what the Commissioner said.

The "WhatsApp proclaimer" neglected to mention this fact when he rather disingenuously stated "this message isn't designed to make you panic".

He must have or at least should have known that was precisely what it would do, particularly to the vulnerable, their loved ones and those with underlying illnesses.

Perhaps most worrying of all is the fake health advice circulating on social media which have caused great concern.

Two such posts have been widely circulated by sports clubs and parents groups but these have been dismissed by the HSE's Chief Clinical Officer.

The first one wrongly says people should stop taking prescribed anti inflammatory drugs such as Ibuprofen and Difene.

Dr Colm Henry says that all infectious disease specialists are agreed that "the general consensus is that there is no data to support this contention at this stage and this has not gone beyond the stage of hypothesis".

In other words, the advice on this one from the most authoritative medical source here is, "this is a theory at the moment so don't stop taking the medication prescribed for you. If you are in any doubt call your GP or the HSE."

The other fake post stated there were four young people seriously ill in Cork University Hospital with Covid-19 after taking prescribed medicines.

This is simply not true and both the CUH and the HSE have denied it.

What is really worrying, however, is that the fake post not only says that people should stop taking these drugs but recommends they should - wait for it - do physiotherapy instead!

Doctors have been angered by the highly irresponsible and dangerous nature of this sort of messaging.

It is anybody's guess as to who is putting this misinformation and disinformation out and why.

At best it could be well meaning but dangerously misinformed, at worst it could be deliberately malicious and therefore all the more dangerous.

There are people all over the world who are online solely to spread hate, panic and fear, to interfere with elections and disrupt social harmony.

Social media provides them with the tools to do this and the cloak of anonymity to get away with it.

People should ask themselves a few simple questions: Who is telling me this? How do they know this? Why are they saying this?

There are credible news sources that people can get their information from. Whatsapp, Snapchat and Instagram are not among them.

People can also check directly with the gardaí, the HSE and other State agencies for reliable and accurate information.

In this climate, the words of the Defence Forces Chief of Staff bear repeating: "Get your facts from credible sources. Do not amplify fake news."