Ex-TV chef Pete Evans hits out at Jacinda Ardern, calls COVID-19 lockdown a 'scam'

Controversial anti-vaxxer and conspiracy theorist Pete Evans has made further outrageous claims about the COVID-19 pandemic, this time targeting New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern. 

The former My Kitchen Rules presenter told his social media followers on Wednesday he thought Auckland's new alert level 3 lockdown was part of a Governmental "agenda". 

"No surprises here - NZ be very careful who you vote for this election. This 'scam' is not about your health," he wrote. 

Ardern addressed misinformation such as that being shared by Evans during a media briefing on Thursday.

"It's not new. Some of those conspiracy theories around COVID-19 'not being real' have existed from the very beginning of COVID-19's emergence globally. Some of them are perpetuated by offshore sources," Ardern said.

"I've seen reports of people from overseas who have viewed COVID-19 as being fake, who have lost their lives to it. That's the evidence - the global situation is the evidence. This is very, very real, we need to take it seriously." 

Ardern announced Auckland's lockdown and level 2 restrictions for the rest of Aotearoa on Tuesday night after four cases of community transmission from the same south Auckland family were confirmed.

But Evans suggests it's all part of a sinister plan, encouraging people to comment on his post to "educate" others and "check out the new laws that have been placed this year". 

"It would not be a surprise for NZ to have the most extreme lockdown laws in the world very soon, or to copy what is happening in Victoria and if you cannot see the correlation then please dig deeper." 

He then pointed followers to the social media page of the New Zealand Public Party, an unregistered, anti-lockdown political party whose tagline is: "It is Time to Take Back New Zealand for the people".

There was a mixed response to the post, with over 1500 comments arguing over the legitimacy of the claims. Some slammed Evans for "bullying" tactics. 

"Pete, come on mate, I've always really liked you and what you believe in - please don't turn this into bullying. The message you are spreading is better than that," one person wrote.

"I support our NZ government. We have had a setback. Of course we have. The virus is on a mission. But we will lockdown for a short time and come back strong," added another.

But others showed support for Evans' views. 

"They were grooming everyone here for it over the last week Pete. The Director General of Health came out of nowhere and said less than a week ago that there will be community transmission again, not if but when and to buy masks in case," one supporter wrote, adding the hashtag "#wakeupnewzealand".

"The world praises Jacinda but those of us here who see the agenda playing are shaking our heads. Very conveniently back in level 3 tomorrow midday. She's the master of smoke and mirrors," another comment read.

Evans continues to gain notoriety for his more extremist views shared on social media. 

The former television chef made headlines in Aotearoa several weeks ago after appearing on a health and wellness podcast with NZ reality couple Art and Matilda Rice. 

In the episode - which was later pulled - Evans declared the response to the COVID-19 pandemic "a f**king hoax". 

Conspiracy theories have boomed in popularity during the pandemic, with some claiming COVID-19 is related to 5G technology, a plot orchestrated by Jewish cults or a plot to wipe out a generation of women, amongst others.