The Miss World beauty pageant has been postponed due to health safety concerns.

The 70th Miss World pageant was meant to take place on Thursday 16 December in Puerto Rico, but hours before the finale the pageant was postponed. News agencies report that at least 16 people, including contestants and staff, have tested positive for Covid-19.

In a statement the Miss World organizers said that the pageant has been temporarily postponed: “Miss World 2021 temporarily postpones global broadcast finale in Puerto Rico due to health and safety interest of contestants, staff, crew and general public. The finale will be rescheduled at Puerto Rico Coliseum Jose Miguel Agrelot within the next 90 days.”

The statement continued: “After meeting with the virologists and medical experts hired to oversee the Miss World 2021 event and discussing with the Puerto Rico Health Department, the decision has been made by the organizers of the event to postpone the globally broadcast finale at the Puerto Rico Coliseum Jose Miguel Agrelot to be held within the next 90 days.”

Safety measures were in place, but as positive Covid-19 cases increased, the organizers say they had no choice but to postpone the event: “After additional positive cases were confirmed this morning after consulting with health officials and experts, the postponement decision was made. The next step according to the medical experts is immediate quarantine, pending observation, and further testing according to best practices in situations like this.”

Julia Morley, CEO of Miss World Ltd said: “We are very much looking forward to the return of our contestants, (who we have grown to know and love), to compete for the Miss World crown.”

South Africa is represented at the pageant by Shudufhadzo Musida. Ahead of the grand finale, Musida won the Beauty with A Purpose Award along with the representatives from the Philippines, Kenya, India, England, and the USA.

Miss South Africa Lalela Mswane made the Top 3 at the 70th Miss Universe pageant.

Miss India Harnaaz Sandhu, was crowned Miss Universe at the pageant which was held in Eilat, Israel. Nadia Ferreira, Miss Paraguay the first runner-up

In her final speech before the winner was announced, Mswane urged young women to “choose courage over comfort,” saying: “I would like young women to know that since the beginning of time they have had everything within them to achieve anything they wanted, it is the world that convinced that we do not.”

Mswane’s participation courted controversy as pro-Palestine activists wanted her to boycott the pageant and not travel to Israel. The Department of Sports, Arts and Culture also withdrew its support of Miss South Africa organisation.

Ahead of the pageant, the CEO of the Miss South Africa Organisation, Stephanie Weil said that they fully supported Mswane travelling to Israel.

Weil said a “very, very small, but extremely vocal, group” had attempted, and failed, to derail Mswane’s chances at the prestigious international pageant.

She added: “Lalela will be a role model to young women – not just across the country, but across the African continent. Anyone who wants to rob Lalela of her moment in the spotlight is unkind and short-sighted. She is the shining beacon for young women everywhere, showing them that being beautiful while being clever and educated is very possible.”

The pageant was broadcast live during the early hours of Monday morning but there is a repeat broadcast airing on M-Net’s Me (DStv 115) on Sunday 19 December at 20:00, making the broadcast available to more lower-tiered DStv subscribers.