Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said on Monday that congregation of 500 people or more both indoors or outdoors must be cancelled owing to the risk of the spread of COVID-19. She said that the decision was arrived upon in "in the best interest of New Zealanders."

Ardern also added that the Ministry of Education will be coordinating with schools and universities to minimise gatherings.

Over 100 events scheduled in the month of March

There are approximately 107 events, with participants of more than 1,000 people, scheduled to take place nationwide next month, Xinhua news agency quoted Ardern as saying at a press conference. She said the cancellation aimed to "slow the spread of COVID-19, reduce the number of people infected and to protect those who are more vulnerable to severe illness".

Prime Minister of New Zealand Jacinda Ardern
Prime Minister of New Zealand Jacinda Ardern Reuters

Over the weekend, Auckland's Pasikifa Festival, as well as the March 15 Christchurch terrorist attacks memorial service, were cancelled due to the pandemic. The government will announce New Zealand's economic response to the pandemic on Tuesday. The country on Sunday two more cases of the virus, taking the total number of infections to 19, with no death.

No coronavirus casualties reported in NZ

So far, New Zealand has reported only 8 confirmed cases. No casualties have been reported in the island nation yet. Prime Minister Ardern recently announced that all arrivals in the island from Sunday must self-isolate to prevent an outbreak in the country. "I make no apologies. This is an unprecedented time," Ardern said, according to BBC.

Ardern also urged New Zealanders to practice social distancing in order to avoid an Italy-like situation. According to The Guardian, Ardern said, "These are extraordinary circumstances. When we have emergencies, when we have situations that are unprecedented, New Zealanders work together. We are asking you to work together – with a little distance between you."

(With inputs from agencies)