Pasifika Festival cancelled over Coronavirus fears

Publish Date
Friday, 13 March 2020, 10:48AM
Getty Images

Getty Images

Pasifika Festival has been cancelled because of concerns about coronavirus, Auckland Mayor Phil Goff announced this afternoon.

The festival at Western Springs was set to run tomorrow and Sunday.

Auckland mayor Phil Goff said it was with "much regret" that the festival has been cancelled.

"We were simply not prepared to take the risk."

Goff said the decision was made after discussions with various groups from the community as well as Cabinet.

He spoke with Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern about the event yesterday, he said.

The last-minute decision to cancel was not based on what health authorities had said, but on the fact that hundreds of people from around the Pacific would be attending, Goff said.

Organisers and officials did not want to risk spreading an infection - if there was one at the event - to Pacific nations once those visitors returned.

Goff acknowledged the measles epidemic that had hit Samoa in particular late last year when dozens of people - most of them young children - had died.

Pacific Peoples Minister Carmel Sepuloni said it was important to note that the Pacific community backed the decision.

Auckland Tourism, Events and Economic Development (Ateed) had said earlier this week it would go ahead with the festival.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern sought advice this week on whether the March 15 terror attack memorial service and Auckland's Pasifika Festival should go ahead.

She was set to open the festival tomorrow and is in Christchurch today.

"New Zealand does not have community outbreak at this point. We have cases that are identified where we've been able to do contact tracing," Arden said.

"So we're not at the point where other governments we've seen around the world have cancelled large scale events.

"However I do want to assure myself that we're in the right position from a public health perspective so I have asked for more advice."

A group of doctors were among those putting pressure on the council and Government to change its mind.

It is the second year in a row that Pasifkia has been called off.

Last year, Ateed cancelled it because police had to prioritise resourcing to ensure public safety after the Christchurch shootings.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has declared Covid-19 a pandemic as the number of people who had contracted it passed 120,000 people.

There have been five confirmed cases of coronavirus in New Zealand.

The Government is considering tightening travel restrictions.

Ardern overnight from top scientists on whether New Zealand's border restrictions would tighten further.

This came after US President Donald Trump placed a 30-day ban on travel from most European countries yesterday, sending shockwaves through international markets.