University of Otago cancels graduation due to coronavirus pandemic

The University of Otago says it will cancel its May graduation ceremony in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.

An email from the university provided to Newshub says the pandemic is an "unprecedented occurrence".

"We appreciate this will be disappointing to you, but are sure that you will appreciate that public health considerations need to take priority at this time."

Students have been offered the choice of graduating in absentia - still receiving their degree but not physically attending a ceremony - or attending a ceremony at a later date.

The decision to cancel graduation follows outrage after hundreds of Otago University students attended a huge St Patricks Day party metres from a school, which had been forced to close due to a confirmed case of COVID-19.

On Monday Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced gatherings of more than 500 people should be cancelled to prevent the virus spreading but that didn't stop Dunedin students from partying.

The event was held just metres from Logan Park High School which was forced to close for 48 hours after a student tested positive for coronavirus. 

Social media posts seen by Newshub showed pictures of students dressed up in green before the event. One captioned "on our way to catch corona".

The DJ of the event also reportedly told partygoers "you're all getting f**king coronavirus".

Pictures of the party posted on social media infuriated Kiwis.

"They are acting with complete stupidity," wrote one person.

"For once think about our already stretched health care workers."

Others described it as "unbelievably selfish" and "ignorant".

"Shocking, but unfortunately not unexpected," another commenter wrote.