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“New world order” trended on Twitter after an Australian health official explained her vision of life post-Covid – and it spiralled into an online conspiracy.
Dr Kerry Chant, the New South Wales’ chief health officer, justified the ongoing Covid restrictions as a necessary part of a “new world order”.
Asked about whether contract-tracing would be part of Australian life, she said: “We will be looking at what contract-tracing looks like in the new world order – yes, it will be pubs and clubs and other things, if we have a positive case there [but] our response may be different if we know people are fully vaccinated.”
What is the New World Order theory?
While it may have been simply a passing comment to the health official, Dr Chant had tapped into the popular New World Order theory which claims a totalitarian world government will one day rule Earth.
Sovereign nation states will be eliminated and the world will be ruled by the powerful elite.
Conspiracists usually link the theory to groups like the Illuminati and the Freemasons society, while some also describe it as the Fourth Reich or link it to the dystopian book by Aldous Huxley, ‘Brave New World’, from 1932.
The phrase made Twitter light up
More than 45,000 tweets were shared on the topic and it reached number 10 on the top UK trends.
Famous faces including Laurence Fox – known for his anti-woke, anti-vaccine stance and campaigning for regaining “personal freedoms” throughout the pandemic – chimed in.
He tweeted “New World Order” alongside a clip of Dr Chant from the press briefing.
He also retweeted a message from journalist Aarti Tikoo which read: “The New World Order was reset the day the coronavirus pandemic was announced.
“Biden, as I had repeatedly predicted, is overseeing fall of the American Empire and handing over the charge to China. This decade will be hugely shaped by Chinese Communist Party’s vision of the world.”
Others also jumped on the trend with some bizarre and baseless interpretations of Dr Chant’s words.
Political pundit James Melville even warned the Australian officials to “think very carefully before using phrases” such as new world order when “discussing draconian and authoritarian restrictions to people’s freedoms”.
But there were some more light-hearted takes, too.
Important context for Dr Chant’s words
Australia was striving to be Covid-free for much of the pandemic and so locked down its borders.
Yet an outbreak of the Delta variant has seen New South Wales in lockdown since July.
More than half of Australia’s population of 25 million are under lockdown at the moment, due to outbreaks in Victoria and the Australian Capital Territory.
Some of the country’s states have remained Covid-free, such as Queensland and Western Australia, and have rejected calls for the population to learn to “live with the virus”, while officials are still concerned about vaccine hesitancy.
Twitter did shut the conspiracy theorists down, by adding this explainer to the trend: “Unfounded claims about the ‘New World Order’ conspiracy theory are shared after an Australian government official used the expression during a press conference on Thursday.”
Twitter added: “Fact-checkers had regularly debunked claims connected to the conspiracy theory. The phrase is regularly used to times of change or cultural shift.”
This article originally appeared on HuffPost UK and has been updated.