Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has urged conspiracy theorists lurking online to "listen to the experts" as New Zealand battles a fresh outbreak of COVID-19.
Ardern hit back at pot-stirrers who have taken to social media to drip-feed misinformation amid a time of escalating fear and uncertainty.
A number of conspiracy theories have been doing the rounds on Facebook, and at a time where people are desperate for answers, it appears Kiwis are taking undue heed.
Ardern urged those who are wary of politicians - following calls by leading health experts for MPs to resist using COVID-19 for scaremongering and politicking - to instead listen to independent voices.
"If you're someone who views politicians suspiciously, then please by all means listen to the independent doctors, scientists - those who are our source of advice that we lean on," Ardern said at the daily media briefing on Thursday.
She also addressed the common conspiracy that COVID-19 is not a real virus - perpetuated by the same ilk who believe the pandemic was intentionally planned by the world's most powerful people.
"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."
However, the Prime Minister acknowledged that the vast majority of New Zealanders "absolutely understand" why recent measures have been taken. Following the confirmation of four cases of community transmission on Tuesday, Auckland was plunged into alert level 3 lockdown for a preliminary three-day period, while the rest of the nation will observe alert level 2 protocol. An additional 13 cases, linked to the existing four, were announced on Thursday - and it was revealed the four family members had travelled to both Rotorua and Taupo in recent days.
"In any circumstance, misinformation is concerning. I think the vast majority of New Zealanders absolutely understand why we're taking the measures that we are. The whole intent is for us to limit the amount of times that anyone has restrictions on them, or has their freedoms limited," Ardern said.
"The whole goal is to get us back to normal as quickly as we can. I still ask people to... listen to our experts like Dr Bloomfield, they're the ones who really know and understand this virus and are trusted sources of information."