CHIRSTCHURCH: New Zealand on Saturday (Mar 14) called off a national remembrance service marking the one-year anniversary of the attack on Christchurch mosques due to concerns over the coronavirus outbreak.

The event, to be held in Christchurch on Sunday, was expected to attract a large crowd, with many travelling from around New Zealand and from overseas.

“This is a pragmatic decision. We’re very saddened to cancel, but in remembering such a terrible tragedy, we shouldn’t create the risk of further harm being done,” New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said in a statement.

New Zealand confirmed its sixth case of COVID-19 on Saturday. 

On Friday, hundreds of people gathered for prayers to honor the lives lost in the attack on the two mosques in Christchurch last year.

The shootings left 51 people dead and widely seen as an attack on the Muslim community.

Ardern was praised across the globe last year for her response to the attacks.

In their wake, the country outlawed the weapons used by the gunman within weeks.

Ardern had earlier said a Sunday memorial marking the anniversary is still supposed to go ahead as scheduled, but acknowledged that could change if the coronavirus situation in New Zealand grows worse.

Brenton Tarrant, an Australian national, faces 92 charges related to the Christchurch attacks.

He has pleaded not guilty and will face trial in June.

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