British DJ 'Devastated' for Bringing Omicron to NZ

Nation's health officials say Robert Etheridge left required self-isolation before getting test result
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Dec 30, 2021 7:46 AM CST
British DJ Accused of Bringing Omicron to NZ
Stock photo.   (Getty Images/Marko NOVKOV)

New Zealand health officials are reeling after a British DJ set to play a New Year's Eve music fest left his required self-isolation before getting the results of a final COVID test back. He subsequently tested positive for omicron, the country's first community case of the variant. The Sydney Morning Herald reports Robert Etheridge, aka DJ Dimension, arrived on Dec. 16 in New Zealand, where he was required to complete 10 days of isolation before heading out to mingle with the public: seven days of quarantine at a hotel, followed by three additional days of self-isolation. Etheridge finished his weeklong hotel quarantine, during which time he produced three negative COVID tests, and took a fourth test on Christmas Day—the ninth day of his isolation period.

But he didn't wait to see how that test came out, instead choosing to visit various bars, restaurants, and clubs in downtown Auckland on Dec. 26 and 27, the New Zealand Health Ministry says, per Deutsche Welle. On Dec. 27, that test came back positive. Chris Hipkins, the nation's COVID-19 response minister, said what Etheridge had done was "disappointing," adding, "With omicron, we don't have it here, we don't want it here, and our tolerance is very low." New Zealand has kept its COVID case count relatively small compared with other nations, with about 14,000 cases in total and just over 50 deaths.

In a Wednesday Instagram post, Etheridge said he was "extremely sorry" and "devastated" for what had transpired, apologizing to "members of the public, event organizers and close contacts." He says he had no symptoms during his isolation period and that he's been working with Auckland's health service to do contact tracing. Stuff notes that Etheridge is one of the few foreigners that's been given multiple border-crossing exemptions since the pandemic began in March 2020 due to his entertainer status. "Never in a million years did I think anything like this would be a reality in a country that I love so much and that has always made me feel so welcome," he lamented in his post. (More New Zealand stories.)

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