Omicron DJ avoids charges in New Zealand

·2-min read

New Zealand continues to dance between Omicron raindrops, avoiding community transmission of the COVID-19 variant.

On Monday, health authorities reported 27 new community cases but none of the highly infectious Omicron, which has pushed Australia and other countries to record high case counts.

Since its detection in November last year, New Zealand has identified just two community Omicron cases.

The first was from a touring DJ, who broke the terms of his isolation to party in Auckland, and the second was of an Air New Zealand crew member, identified during routine testing.

There are no connections between the pair, who were fully vaccinated.

The DJ, named Robert Etheridge but who performs as Dimension, has caused widespread anger after spending a night out in Auckland without receiving the results from his final test in isolation.

After seven days in a quarantine hotel, Dimension spent his three-day self-isolation on the winery-clad Waiheke Island, a ferry ride from Auckland.

The 30-year-old spent Boxing Day around the CBD, including trips to shops, restaurants and bars before playing at Impala nightclub.

The next day, he received his positive result, and later, news outlet Stuff confirmed his identity, prompting Dimension to pen a grovelling apology.

"I cannot put into words how extremely sorry I am to everyone who will be impacted," he wrote on Instagram.

His close contacts have been forced to isolate, including other touring DJs who have been forced to cancel gigs and pull out of festivals around New Zealand.

The 30-year-old DJ won't face charges as the Ministry of Health isn't referring him to police.

"The ministry continues to assess the need for enforcement action ... on a case by case basis," a spokesman said.

"The ministry needs to balance the deterrence effect from any potential prosecution with enabling an environment that does not discourage future cases from assisting with the public health response to COVID-19."

A week on, health officials are yet to report any further linked cases - meaning New Zealand is yet to record a case of community Omicron transmission.

There are currently 44 New Zealanders in hospital with COVID-19, including five in intensive care.

As part of New Zealand's Omicron preparation plans, Jacinda Ardern's government has shortened the time fully vaccinated Kiwis must wait to receive a booster shot.

From Wednesday, the minimum wait is four months, meaning more than 80 per cent of vaccinated Kiwis will be able to receive booster shots by the end of February.

In the week before Christmas, Ms Ardern pushed back a planned border opening for Australia-based Kiwis from mid-January to the end of February.

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