New Zealand and Australian Anzac Day services at Gallipoli have been cancelled due to the coronavirus outbreak, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says.
This includes the Anzac Dawn Service, the Australian Lone Pine Service and the New Zealand Service at Chunuk Bair in Turkey.
"It is with deep sadness the decision has been made by both the Australian and New Zealand Governments to cancel this year's Anzac services at Gallipoli," said Ardern.
"The Gallipoli services in particular have become a pilgrimage of sorts for many New Zealanders. But with global travel restrictions and isolation requirements in place in most countries it is simply not practical to hold this year’s event."
Many countries around the world have essentially closed their borders in an attempt to contain the virus, which has infected nearly 200,000 people and killed more than 7000. Some nations, including New Zealand, are requiring arriving travellers to spend 14 days in self-isolation. As a result, international travel is plummeting and airlines are pulling out of routes.
The Gallipoli Anzac Day services are jointly organised by New Zealand and Australia. Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Ardern have been contact about the decision.
Anzac Day marks the anniversary of New Zealand and Australian soldiers landing on the Gallipoli Peninsula in 1915 during World War I. Among the tens of thousands killed during the Gallipoli campaign were about 8500 Australians and 2779 New Zealanders. About a sixth of the Kiwis killed landed on the peninusla.
The services held at Gallipoli are the largest Anzac Day commemorations run jointly by New Zealand and Australia. Decisions about events in other world centres are being made on a case by case basis, while no decision has been made on domestic commemorations yet.
A statement from the Prime Minister warns that domestic services would need to be held in accoordance with new guidelines issued by the Government on mass gatherings. On Monday, Ardern said events with more than 500 people attending should not go ahead. More information about restrictions are set to be released soon.
New Zealand's Defence Minister Ron Mark said that cancelling the Gallipoli services would normally be "unimaginable".
"But then these are unimaginable times and just as they sought to protect our people, so must we," Mark said in a statement.
On Wednesday, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade urged New Zealanders travelling overseas to return from holisdays while commercial options remained available. It came as Europe closed its external borders.
SafeTravel advises overseas New Zealanders, or New Zealanders preparing to go overseas, to:
- be aware of the self-isolation process
- register with Healthline upon arrival
- be prepared for your travel insurance to be affected
- contact your travel insurer with questions and concerns about whether the insurance policy covers any COVID-19 related expenses
- ensure you can access money to cover emergencies and unexpected delays
- carefully consider the need to travel overseas at this time
- reconsider taking an overseas cruise at this time or contact your travel agent or cruise operator for specific information
- defer any non-essential overseas travel.