Thousands of people at the centenary of Gallipoli service.
Thousands of people at the centenary of Gallipoli service.

International Anzac Day services cancelled

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

Commemorations at Gallipoli and on the Western Front will be among the events cancelled on April 25 because of the global pandemic.

Veterans' Affairs Minister Darren Chester said the decision to cancel was made with great regret, but the safety of people involved 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 News Breakfast 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 Canberra's War Memorial.

"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 NSW said it was working with the state government to plan alternate ways to commemorate Anzac Day including televising a small, private service under strict conditions.

"I want to reiterate that no public ANZAC Day commemorations should take place across New South Wales 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."



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