Fake Labour Party billboard promoting 'six months of freedoms' for getting COVID-19 booster circulates social media

A fake Labour Party billboard depicting Jacinda Ardern promoting COVID-19 booster shots to get "six months worth of freedoms" is circulating social media.

The doctored image shows a picture of the Prime Minister and Labour leader next to the text: "Remember to book your Christmas booster! Each booster gives you up to six months worth of freedoms!"

The fine print with an asterisk at the bottom of the doctored billboard says: "Freedoms not available in all areas and are subject to change," followed by another snippet of text that says: "No Jab. No Job. No refunds." 

The Associated Press published a fact-check of the image doing the rounds on social media. It found that a photo taken of a Labour Party billboard in August 2020 ahead of the election, with the text "Let's keep moving", had been manipulated. 

The original photo, archived on Shutterstock, is clearer than the doctored image, the fact-checkers pointed out. The fake image also includes a broken website link next to the fine print. 

The Government announced last month that Pfizer booster shots would be available from November 29 for those who had their second dose six months ago. But the real Labour Party ad was part of its election campaign effort last year, not an initiative to encourage COVID-19 vaccine boosters. 

The doctored billboard appears to have been shared by vaccine skeptics.

"Actual billboard going up in NZ. No words," one Twitter user captioned a post with the fake photo. Another since-deleted tweet shared the doctored image with the text: "Connecting the words Christmas and booster is nothing short of sacrilege."

The COVID Protection Framework, or 'traffic light' system, has sparked some backlash due to the limitations it places on the unvaccinated. For example, at the most restrictive 'red' level, hospitality venues that check vaccine passes can have up to 100 guests but hospitality venues that don't check vaccine passes must be contactless. 

Frustration over COVID-19 restrictions and vaccine mandates culminated in a march of approximately 2000 people last month from Wellington CBD to Parliament. Another protest is planned for next week. 

Documents show the Government went against official advice to limit vaccine pass requirements to high-risk events or it could risk social cohesion.

While vaccine passes are required to enter hospitality venues and other close contact businesses like gyms and hairdressers, vaccine certificates cannot be asked for at supermarkets, pharmacies, dairies or petrol stations.

The latest Newshub-Reid Research poll found that the overwhelming majority of New Zealanders - 73 percent - support vaccine certificates, while 20 percent didn't agree and 6 percent didn't know. 

Ardern assured the unvaccinated last month: "We are still a team."

"The COVID Protection Framework, what we've designed, helps everyone. It helps keep everyone safe. And whilst we will continue to advocate that everyone gets vaccinated, because it is the best protection we can provide, the framework is also designed to keep people who aren't vaccinated, safe as well."

Vaccination helps to reduce the likelihood of infection and hospitalisation, data released by the Ministry of Health shows