Organisers of the Auckland Lantern Festival will decide this week - possibly as early as today - whether to go ahead with New Zealand's largest cultural festival after coronavirus fears have forced the cancellation of several Lunar New Year events.
The Whau Chinese New Year Festival and the Northcote Chinese and Korean New Year events were called off last weekend as the rapid spread of the virus from China has cast fears across communities here.
Steve Armitage, Auckland Tourism, Events and Economic Development (Ateed) general manager destination, said a decision has yet to be made about whether the lantern festival would go ahead.
"A decision about whether this year's Auckland Lantern Festival will proceed as planned will be made by the end of the week," Armitage said.
The four-day festival at the Auckland Domain, which usually draws a crowd of about 200,000, is to start on February 13 this year.
Ateed is meeting Chinese community leaders today to get feedback on whether the lantern festival - which traditionally marks the closure of Chinese New Year festivities - should be cancelled this year.
"Ateed has convened a meeting with a group of community leaders to help inform the decision on whether Auckland Lantern Festival will proceed as planned," said Armitage.
Meanwhile, the organisers of Japan Day - the largest Japanese cultural festival in the country - will also be deciding the fate of this year's event.
Organiser Anri Go, president of the Japanese Society of Auckland, said the committee would decide in the next day or two whether to go ahead with the festival at ASB Showgrounds in Greenlane on Sunday, February 9.
Several performers are due to arrive from Japan this week for the event, which is co-hosted by the consulate-general of Japan in Auckland.
Many among the local Chinese communities are choosing to stay away from crowds and public celebrations after more than 17,000 people have been infected by the new coronavirus that originated in China and spread to other countries.
More than 360 people have died in China, and two in the Philippines, the first deaths outside China.
Although there has yet to be any cases in New Zealand, many are taking precautions by wearing medical masks and staying inside whenever possible.
But while people take personal precautions, organisers have taken a step further by cancelling some Lunar New Year events.
Zhu, deputy chairwoman of the Whau Local Board, said it was a community decision to call off the Whau Chinese New Year Festival last Saturday.
"Many Chinese community leaders supported cancelling the festival," she said.
"Even though we do not yet have a case of coronavirus in New Zealand, the fear is real."
In an email, the festival organisers said it had been a difficult decision to cancel, but had to do so because of public health and safety concerns.
Lion dance master Peter Low, who heads the E-Pacs Lion and Dragon Dance Troupe, said his team had been diligent in taking added precautions during performances.
"We don't wear masks but we use Dettol-sanitised wet towel all time and wash our hands as we do come in contact often with people during performances," Low said.
China's consul-general in Auckland, Ruan Ping, said it was a pity that Chinese New Year events are being cancelled, and called for calm.
"It is a pity that many Chinese New Year events have been cancelled because of the unexpected outbreak of the virus.
"We respect the decisions made by the organisers of those events. Facing the epidemic, we hope everyone remains calm, objective and rational."