New Zealand cancels mosque massacre remembrance over virus fears

Published Mar 14, 2020, 9:19 am IST
Updated Mar 14, 2020, 9:19 am IST
Two consecutive terrorist shooting attacks occurred at mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, during Friday prayer on 15 March 2019
Representational image (Twitter)
 Representational image (Twitter)

Wellington: New Zealand has cancelled a national remembrance service to mark Sunday's first anniversary of the Christchurch mosque attacks because of coronavirus fears, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said.

"This is a pragmatic decision. We're very saddened to cancel, but in remembering such a terrible tragedy, we shouldn't create the risk of further harm being done," Ardern said on saturday.


The service to mark the March 15 mass shooting, when a self-avowed white supremacist opened fire at two mosques during Friday prayers, killing 51, had been expected to attract several thousand people, with many travelling from overseas.

Ardern said New Zealand needed to take a precautionary approach.

She said, the advice they received for this event is that based on people travelling from different parts of the country and from overseas, if there was a case, it could be difficult to trace those who had come into contact with that person, so they are asked to take a cautious approach.

The unveiling of a remembrance plaque, also planned for sunday morning at Christchurch's main al-Noor mosque, has been postponed as a precautionary measure.

Mosque spokesman Tony Green said they had taken the advice of health professionals and it was right not to go ahead with the two remembrance services.

"It would be unwise not to take health advice on coronavirus. It's very concerning," he said.

He also added It would only need one person to be infected and it would be very difficult to track where the carrier travelled from.

Six people have so far tested positive for the new coronavirus in New Zealand although there have been no reported cases in Christchurch.

The alleged mosque attacker Brenton Tarrant, an Australian national, is due to go on trial on June 2 facing terrorism charges plus 51 counts of murder and 40 of attempted murder over the killings.