Auckland Pasifika Festival cancelled over fears of Coronavirus

Mayor Phil Goff made the announcement on Friday morning that Auckland Pasifika Festival which takes place Saturday and Sunday March 14-15 has been cancelled over concerns the event could spread coronavirus to Pacific Island nations.



Health authorities said there was a low risk of coronavirus spreading at the festival, but council was not willing to take that risk, says the mayor.


It comes after the World Health Organisation officially declared Covid-19 a pandemic, but emphasised it was not too late for countries to act.


It is the second year in a row the festival has been cancelled, after last year's event was called off in the aftermath of the 15 March terrorist attack in Christchurch.


There were concerns earlier this week that it would be called off again, but it was given the all clear to go ahead on Tuesday, with authorities instead warning anyone who felt sick to stay home.


However advice from both the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, as well as the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment was to cancel Auckland's two-day Pasifika festival, which was expected to draw at least 60,000 people to Western Springs


Mr Goff said while the latest Ministry of Health advice is that New Zealand does not have a community outbreak of COVID-19 and the risk of a community outbreak remains low, Auckland Council and the Cabinet Committee's specific concerns are about the risk of the virus being transmitted to the Pacific Islands by attendees of the festival.



"Should there be transmission at the festival, there will be hundreds of people coming from the Pacific who will return to their homes."


A recent outbreak of measles, which had a devastating effect on Samoa, was considered in the decision.


"We were simply not prepared to take the risk that holding Pasifika might be responsible for that disease spreading into the Pacific."


"This does not mean all large gatherings of people across Auckland will be cancelled, we will continue to take advice and take into account what is happening with Covid-19 in New Zealand."


Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said she was disappointed, but that the health of New Zealanders and the Pacific community is the top priority.


"We still have no community transmission, but because of new specific advice about the number of people coming into New Zealand for Pacifika who will then return to the Pacific after the event we have decided we need to be extra precautious," Ms Ardern said.


"We have a duty to protect the Pacific from COVID-19, and this decision is all about that.


No decision has been made on whether Polyfest would go ahead, Goff said. The event is due to begin in Auckland on March 18.