Australian-led international Anzac Day services have been cancelled. Image by EPA/TOLGA BOZTOGLU/POOL

Health

International Anzac Day services cancelled

2020-03-19 12:29:39

Australian-led international Anzac Day services have been cancelled as the government moves to slow the spread of coronavirus.

Commemorations at Gallipoli in Turkey and on the western front in France are among the events cancelled on April 25 because of the global pandemic.

Veterans’ Affairs Minister Darren Chester says the decision was made with great regret but people’s safety was paramount.

“We simply couldn’t be having large gatherings of 500 or 1000 people on Anzac Day on foreign soil this year,” he told ABC TV on Wednesday.

“We know that if we can reduce the spread of this virus we can save lives in our communities.”

Some Anzac Day gatherings in Australian capital cities will go ahead in a different format.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison on Wednesday told reporters a televised national event would be held at the Australian War Memorial in Canberra.

“That will enable people to be able to join those services, at least remotely, on what is one of the most important days, if not the most important days, of the year for Australians,” he said.

“It will be quite a solemn day because the last time we were in a situation like this, it was after our Diggers returned from World War I.”

RSL ACT said the safety of veterans and the wider public had to come first.

“In these exceptional circumstances, the RSL feels the course of action decided by the Australian War Memorial is the most appropriate way to mark Anzac Day,” president John King said in a statement.

The private service will likely still be attended by international dignitaries and some veterans and defence force personnel.

RSL NSW said it was working with the state government to plan other ways to commemorate Anzac Day including televising a smaller private service under strict conditions. 

“I want to reiterate that no public Anzac Day commemorations should take place across NSW in the lead up to, or on, Anzac Day,” RSL NSW acting president Ray James said in a statement on Wednesday.

“The risk with large gatherings to members and the general public is too great.”

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said all joint services including Gallipoli had been cancelled with deep sadness.

“The Gallipoli services, in particular, have become a pilgrimage of sorts for many New Zealanders,” she said in a statement.

“But with global travel restrictions and isolation requirements in place in most countries, it is simply not practical to hold this year’s event.”