COVID-19: Chris Hipkins urges caution on sharing unverified coronavirus information on social media

The Health Minister has issued a heartfelt plea to Kiwis to be cautious about potential COVID-19 misinformation that is shared online.

It comes after a rumour circulated social media falsely claiming the virus' resurgence in New Zealand was due to a young woman infiltrating a quarantine facility. MBIE later said "no link" had been established at that point between the community outbreak and any managed isolation facility.

As a result, Chris Hipkins is urging Kiwis to take information they see on social media with a grain of salt and to treat it as a rumour if it hasn't come from an official source.

"That is [treating it as] unverified and therefore something that cannot be relied upon to be true or accurate. It is entirely normal to be inquisitive, to ask questions and to want to know what's going on, but what we've seen over the last 24 hours has taken things to a new and concerning level. It's troubling," he said on Sunday.

He says the false rumour about the woman who allegedly snuck into a managed isolation facility was "dangerous" and also "utterly wrong".

"There will always be rumours, but this one smacked of orchestration, of being a deliberate act of misinformation spreading."

He says anyone that's pushing these false rumours needs to "stop doing that".

"At a time when we are fighting a pandemic, we need all hands on deck to beat it down. This sort of behaviour is deliberately designed to create panic, fear and confusion, and it is completely unacceptable."

Hipkins' second plea is for Kiwis to get their information from official sources, such as the daily 1pm briefings or official social media pages.

"Behind the scenes from early on every morning, there are dozens of dedicated people tracking down, cross-referencing and checking every bit of information in preparation for these media conferences. That means the information here is verified."

He added any information shared on the COVID-19 and Ministry of Health websites and social media pages is information that can be trusted.

"Please be responsible and sensible about what you choose to share on Facebook. If it's not verified, please don't share it."

He says he isn't looking at taking any action against social media companies at this point in regards to misinformation.