There were 46 new cases of COVID-19 in the community today, according to the Ministry of Health. Video / NZ Herald
The DJ at the centre of New Zealand’s community Omicron storm has spoken out – saying he was “devastated” to learn he had tested positive for the highly transmissible new variant while in the country.
In a statement on his Instagram page late on Wednesday night, DJ Dimension – whose real name is Robert Etheridge – said he tested positive after 10 days of isolation.
“In line with the Government rules, I was in managed isolation for seven days followed by three days of home isolation,” Etheridge said.
“During this time, I received three negative tests and showed no symptoms. After completing my ten-day isolation, and of the understanding that I had completed my quarantine, I entered the community.
“To my shock and enormous concern, I unexpectedly received a positive test on day twelve, two days after my isolation period had ended.”
Etheridge said he had been working closely with the Auckland Regional Public Health Service to identify close contacts who have been located and contacted to begin isolation to mitigate the risk.
Etheridge, a UK-based electronic music artist, was due to perform at Rhythm & Alps near Wānaka before he abruptly pulled out not long before he was due to take the stage.
Before heading south he spent several hours in the community on Boxing Day – visiting a number of Auckland’s hot spots including a nightclub and bar, restaurants, and a jewellery store.
The visiting artist posted a picture taken on Christmas Day at an Auckland beach with two dogs. The festive photo, which has since been removed from social media, sends Christmas greetings from New Zealand and gives thanks for an amazing year in which his album reached the top of the UK Dance Charts.
The recent arrival from the United Kingdom is the first person infected with Omicron that has been active in the community in New Zealand.
“I cannot put into words how extremely sorry I am to everyone who will be impacted,” Etheridge said on Wednesday night.
“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.”
A Ministry of Health spokesperson earlier told the Herald the infected person did not wait for a negative test result before they left the place they were self-isolating.
Etheridge arrived in New Zealand on December 16, from the UK via Doha. The Ministry of Health said he had returned three negative tests and left MIQ to self-isolate at home for three days on December 23.
He took his day-nine Covid test on Christmas Day, December 25, but rather than wait to get his test result back before leaving self-isolation, he went out shopping and clubbing in Auckland.
Among the places he visited while infected is the Impala night club in central Auckland, as well as Soul bar.
Earlier on Boxing Day, he spent approximately four hours in the Commercial Bay Precinct – visiting a jewellery store and two restaurants – between 2.30pm and 4.30pm, and again between 6.30pm and 8pm.
Etheridge received his positive test result on December 27.
Organisers of Rhythm & Alps last night said they were “absolutely gutted” that artists have had to pull out after being deemed close contacts of a positive Covid-19 case.
DJ Friction, who reportedly played at Hidden Lakes Festival in Christchurch’s Hagley Park on Tuesday, has posted on Instagram that he is a close contact of a Covid case and is currently isolating.
New Zealand drum and base duo Lee Mvtthews also announced that they would not be performing at the festival.
“We have come into close contact with the new case of the Omicron variant and we will not be performing…because we need to isolate for the next seven days,” they said in a Facebook post.
“We understand many of our festival attendees are disappointed to hear that some artists who were scheduled to perform Rhythm & Alps 2021 are now unable to due to coming into close contact with a positive Covid-19 case,” festival organisers said in a statement.
“We too are absolutely gutted.”
The organisers said they were relieved the possible cases had been handled quickly and that the people involved were in isolation.
“As we navigate through logistics and scheduling changes and continue to learn to live in a Covid-19 world, safety for our festival and the people of Aotearoa needs to be at the forefront of our response.”
Etheridge is one of several people who have been granted special visas to enter New Zealand, despite current border closures.
To date, around 81 international music artists have been given a spot in MIQ to come perform in New Zealand.
To get a border exception, they have to apply for a critical purpose visitor visa.
Immigration New Zealand says the promoter has to show how the music artist will bring significant economic benefit to the country, if they were to come here.
Since June last year, when the critical worker border exception started, 137 international music artists have been granted a visa.
Of those, about 81 of them have arrived in the country and got a spot in MIQ.
International music artists performing at summer festivals this year were given a critical worker border exception to get into New Zealand.
They are still required to complete self-isolation before entering the community.