Auckland councillor Efeso Collins still receiving calls, texts claiming COVID-19 'a great big conspiracy'

COVID-19 conspiracy theories are still spreading through some communities, a south Auckland councillor says, sparking concern some people still aren't taking in all the facts about the virus.

Councillor Efeso Collins earlier this year was overwhelmed with messages from angry churchgoers after he expressed support for prioritisng the COVID-19 vaccine rollout in the area. He later revealed to the NZ Herald he'd been hearing coronavirus and vaccine conspiracies from churchgoers since the start of the pandemic. 

South Auckland was impacted by COVID-19 cases during previous community outbreaks - most recently in February and March.

Collins says some people are still in denial.

"I'm still getting calls and texts from people who believe this is a great big conspiracy," he said on Wednesday. "I'm still trying my best to listen to them because they need a chance to vent too." 

Several conspiracies and conspiracy theorists have emerged in New Zealand since the start of the pandemic. Two were arrested in Auckland on Wednesday, Billy Te Kahika and Vinny Eastwood, for taking part in anti-lockdown protests. 

Despite those protests, Collins told Newshub most people were doing the right thing.

"It's important to remember that we have been here before so those families who remember what it was like last time will know that they've got their own protocols, they've got their way to handle it - both at home and with extended family.

"I think for those people thinking, 'this isn't really worth it' - and I've seen those pictures earlier today that was held in town - is to remember most families, for the main, are doing their best to get through this at the moment."

Collins urged the community to keep looking out for one another.

"I think we can do this as a community," he said. "We are the team of 5 million. I think people are really pitching in - we really want to get over this." 

Experts have warned COVID-19 conspiracy theories are being fuelled by social media. 

"I think that they offer an easy and wrong solution to an actual issue we have. After over one year of the pandemic, we crave some sense of security and to know what is going to happen to us," said Dalla Riva, a senior lecturer in data science from the University of Canterbury.

Among the claims made at the Auckland anti-lockdown protest on Wednesday were the alert level response was a "hoax" and that Government was corrupt and lying to the public.