COVID-19: Chris Hipkins' message to DJ Dimension, New Zealand's first community Omicron case

  • 30/12/2021

Chris Hipkins says it is still to be determined if UK DJ Dimension could face penalties for what he alleges is a "really disappointing" breach of COVID-19 self-isolation rules.

Dimension, AKA Robert Etheridge, confirmed in an Instagram post he has the Omicron variant of COVID-19 but said he understood he'd completed his self-isolation requirements.

The Ministry of Health said he arrived on a flight from the UK on December 16 and after three negative test results in managed isolation, was allowed to complete his final three days in self-isolation.

But the Ministry said he didn't wait for his negative day nine test result before leaving self-isolation, as required, and went on to visit multiple venues including a nightclub.

At a press conference on Thursday morning, the COVID-19 Response Minister said it was "clear" the UK drum and bass musician, who was originally staying at the Grand Mercure, appeared to break the rules.

Hipkins cited since-deleted social media posts which showed Etheridge out in public before receiving a negative day nine test result.

"I think it's really disappointing that it's clear that the person [Etheridge] didn't follow all of the rules and one of the critical ones here is you wait until you've had your negative day nine test before you get out and about again. Unfortunately, it appears that's not what the person's done," Hipkins said.

Dimension on Waiheke
The deleted Instagram post. Photo credit: Dimension

He said Dimension - and everyone else who leaves MIQ to isolate at home - are given clear instructions on isolating until day nine negative test results come through.

"It would appear he was out and about on Waiheke... and my understanding is that social media has identified that during that period of self-isolation, he was interacting with other people on Waiheke Island.

"He didn't wait, unfortunately, until he received a negative day nine test before going to a restaurant, a nightclub. And as a result, all of those other people who he would not have come into contact with had he stayed in isolation until he had that negative test result, now find themselves having to isolate as well."

Up to 100 people who were in the same locations Dimension visited have been asked to isolate and get tested. This includes four people who lived next door to the DJ's Waiheke self-isolation home who had drinks with him on a beach.

Asked what his message was to Etheridge, Hipkins said the rules are in place for a reason.

"I think it's really disappointing that they clearly weren't following the rules for their self-isolation period. I acknowledge that other countries around the world don't have the restrictions in place that we have in New Zealand.

"We have those restrictions in place for a reason because we're in quite a different position to much of the rest of the world in that we have really low circulation of COVID-19 in the community. We don't have Omicron circulating in the New Zealand community and we want to keep it that way for as long as we can."

Hipkins said it was "still to be determined" if Dimension would face penalties.

"Ultimately that isn't a decision that I get involved in making. Obviously, there are penalties under the COVID-19 Public Health Response Act. But ultimately I think there's already a reasonably significant penalty playing out in the public arena at the moment."

Hipkins said Dimension was one of the last people to have entered MIQ on the "7+3 arrangement", where people spend seven days in a MIQ hotel then isolate at home for three days. The arrangement was abandoned when Omicron began to spread rapidly around the world and now returnees must spend a full 10 days in MIQ.

Asked why it took more than 48 hours for Dimension to get his negative test result, Hipkins said it was because it was over the Christmas/Boxing Day period.

Hipkins said he did not know how Dimension travelled to Waiheke Island but that would be revealed in Thursday's 1pm update.