Coronavirus: Wedding planner hopeful despite 'unfortunate' gathering, travel restrictions

The founder of a wedding planning service says Government action in response to the coronavirus outbreak will impact weddings, but people shouldn't give up on them entirely.

As COVID-19 continues to pose a threat to the world, spreading to more than 150 countries and infecting about 220,000 people, New Zealand's Government has now closed the border to anyone but residents and citizens, while also limiting mass gatherings.

On Thursday, Health Minister Dr David Clark announced that indoor gatherings of 100 people or more would be banned. The Ministry of Health has produced specific guidelines to help people and businesses impacted by the decision.

Teuila Benioni, the founder and creative director of planning service Wedding She Wrote, told Newshub many weddings would be impacted in the unprecedented move. 

"We have never encountered this and I don't think many industries have. It is just about being positive and finding more creative ways to pursue these dream experiences for our clients and make it work really," she said.

Due to the mass-gathering restrictions as well as the border closure stopping some family and friends from being able to venture to New Zealand, Benioni said many weddings might have to incorporate a digital element.

"It is unfortunate, but at the same time, weddings can still take place, but now we have to work within certain frameworks," she said.

"Livestreaming has been around for a while, just like how you livestream a funeral, except it is not as popular in weddings. I think we are just going to have to get creative and think outside of the square of how we can include our families."

Benioni said, so far, only a few people had postponed their weddings due to the travel restrictions. Many couples had been in touch to find new ways to spend their special day.

"More brides and grooms have reached out for help, trying to figure out how to navigate this new system, or planning a plan B because their wedding was in Bali or Rarotonga, for instance, and now they are having to have it in New Zealand where most of their guests and themselves are located.

"People are reaching out to experts to help them more."

Her message to couples is to "keep calm", "stay positive", and don't give up yet.

"We can still make things happen. Plans just might have to change a little bit. I think now more than ever joyous occasions would be really appreciated, so I don't think people should give up on their weddings as yet."

There are 28 confirmed cases of the virus in New Zealand. Dr Clark said the measures imposed by the Government were in Kiwis' best interests.

"Protecting the health of New Zealanders is our number one priority, and that means we need to reduce the risks associated with large gatherings," Dr Clark said. 

"We know this has specific implications for the hospitality sector. We will work with the sector over the next 24 to 36 hours to develop guidance."

What we know about coronavirus

Coronavirus is primarily spread through droplets in the air after someone sneezes or coughs. However, it can also be contracted by touching surfaces where the illness is present, according to the World Health Organization. The length of time the virus stays alive on surfaces is unknown at this stage, but some viruses can remain active for days. 

The WHO was first informed of cases of the virus in Wuhan on December 31. It was identified as a coronavirus on January 7 and can spread through human-to-human transmission. 

"Common signs of infection include respiratory symptoms, fever, cough, shortness of breath and breathing difficulties. In more severe cases, infection can cause pneumonia, severe acute respiratory syndrome, kidney failure and even death," the WHO says.

"Standard recommendations to prevent infection spread include regular hand washing, covering mouth and nose when coughing and sneezing, thoroughly cooking meat and eggs. Avoid close contact with anyone showing symptoms of respiratory illness such as coughing and sneezing."

There is currently no vaccine for the sickness.

How can I protect myself? 

  • avoid touching the mouth, nose and eyes with unwashed hands
  • washing your hands before eating
  • carrying a hand sanitiser at all times
  • being particularly mindful of touching your face after using public transport or going to the airport
  • carry tissues at all times to cover the mouth and nose when coughing or sneezing (then dispose of it)
  • not eating shared or communal food
  • avoiding shaking hands, kissing cheeks
  • regularly cleaning and sanitise commonly used surfaces and items, such as phones and keys
  • avoiding close contact with people suffering from or showing symptoms of acute respiratory infection
  • seeking medical attention if you feel unwell.

A full explainer on protecting yourself from coronavirus can be found here.

The Ministry of Health is reminding the public to get in touch with Healthline on 0800 358 5453 if they have symptoms or concerns.