PM firm on limits to gatherings

PM-JA

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern remained firm on keeping the number of people gathering under ten, effectively barring public celebrations of weddings, tangihangas as well as public Masses.

“You’ve heard me clearly outline them. This is only intended, we hope, to be a very, very, very short period that we are asking New Zealanders to unfortunately stay with us in what is a very difficult thing to do but the intention is, it will get us there faster when people can come together again,” she said at her regular press conference at 1pm today.

She said preventing the practise of faith has weighed heavily on her mind as she was brought up in a family “that practised it’s faith religiously”. Ms Ardern was raised as a Mormon in The Church of the Latter-day Saints but left because it conflicted with her personal views.

However, she explained that the measure the government used to allow larger gatherings is whether or not there is a possibility that people would congregate.

“Ultimately, some of the feedback that we’ve had from those even within church communities was that actually, it (a church) is a place for fellowship. It is a place for a community to come together,” she said. “And if we were building rules, it is ultimately, we are trying to stop people , on large scales, interacting with one another closely, then that is where that fell into the same category.”

“If you think about it very simply about whether or not you are going to a place where you know other people and you are likely to congregate with them that’s really where that line falls. And that is why we’ve used evenly across the board the rule of ten,” she added.

The Prime Minister said the same measure applied to tangihanga or funerals.

“The one thing I also know is that funeral and tangis are a place where you want to comfort people. It is your natural instinct. That’s why we come together. And the idea that we would force people to not be able to comfort one another, to support one another is equally a very, very hard thing to comprehend,” she said.

Ms Ardern said she knows the decision “is causing pain”.

“This is all based on the advice of health. And you can imagine, I feel a real obligation to make sure that we are listening to that advice,” she said.

In a letter to parishes, the New Zealand Catholic bishops have made plans to comply with Government directive.

“The move to a restrictive Level 2 allows many of our parish activities to resume, including churches opening for private prayer and the Sacrament of Reconciliation.  But because of the gathering restriction of 10 people, we bishops have reluctantly agreed that public Masses will not commence again during this stage of Level 2 and we are not advocating Eucharistic Adoration at this time,” they said.

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Rowena Orejana

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