Coronavirus: UK nurses apologise after 'degrading' COVID-19 haka

The UK nurses who performed a haka condemned by Kiwis and Māori cultural experts as "offensive and degrading" have now apologised.

On Saturday, Tavistock Day Case Theatre posted a video to Twitter of a team of nurses performing a modified version of the 'Ka Mate' haka.

It was later removed after being widely panned by New Zealanders - including Māori cultural advisor Karaitiana Taiuru, who labelled it "blatant cultural abuse that is verging on being racist".

In a statement, Tavistock Day Case Theatre nurses said they were "really sorry our choice of delivery caused offence".

"We want to offer a wholehearted apology to those we offended with a video we posted on Twitter at the weekend," they said.

"The video was intended as a show of our commitment as Livewell Southwest nurses to continue to work hard and care for people as we fight coronavirus.

"We've really enjoyed seeing the video messages from nursing colleagues up and down the country and we are really sorry that our choice of delivery caused offence. Upsetting anyone was the last thing we wanted to do."

In the video, which had hundreds of thousands of views before being deleted, staff could be seen in their medical scrubs, sporting white headbands and black face paint while attempting the haka.

At the end of the video, one woman screams a chant about COVID-19: "This is the message we wish to affirm: you'll never beat us - we hate you, you germ. Together we'll triumph with the strength from within - mankind will destroy you, mankind will win."

Taiuru said the video was "distasteful and disrespectful to the descendants of Ngāti Toa and to all Māori" when contacted by Newshub on Monday. 

"There appears to be a fixation with many people in the UK with Māori culture and what appears to be an inherited colonial perceived right to appropriate Māori culture with the marketing of food and beverages," he said.

On Wednesday, another haka from frontline health workers emerged online - this one from radiologists at Torbay Hospital, in the south of England.

Tania Ka'ai, a Māori language educator at Auckland University of Technology, described it as "a most unfortunate and a serious error of judgment".

Ka'ai labelled the video "truly disturbing", and said it speaks to a common misunderstanding of the cultural significance behind the haka.

"Haka are not about being simply angry at the world," she explained. "They are a fierce display of a tribe's pride, strength and unity."