National | Foreign Minister

Welfare fears for rangatahi stranded in Dubai with Omicron

Children in a 50-strong dance troupe sent by the government to Dubai to represent Aotearoa at the global trade fair ‘Expo 2020’ have caught Covid-19, leaving dozens stranded in the region as parents raise concern for their welfare.

Māori Television has seen email correspondence between Te Pāti Māori co-leader Debbie Ngarewa-Packer and Foreign Minister Nanaia Mahuta in which she raises parents’ welfare worries for dancers from The Royal Family Dance Crew and ‘Voice of Youth’ group, who travelled to Dubai in late January but saw their performances nixed after members tested positive for the highly contagious new coronavirus strain, Omicron.

‘I have been contacted by constituents, whānau concerned with the well-being of their sons currently in isolation in Dubai.’ the correspondence reads.

The Royal Family Dance Crew, which rose to prominence after winning the World Hip Hop Dance Championship three years in a row, was expected to perform on February 1, before a social media post on the New Zealand at Expo 2020 Facebook page said the group's shows had been cancelled "for the safety of performers, staff and audiences”.

“Several" members of the crew had tested positive on the evening of the performance according to the post.

Ngarewa-Packer says that group has now swelled to 50 and while around 30 made it home only to test positive at MIQ in the Pullman hotel in Auckland, many remain trapped in their accommodation in the emirate, unable to leave their rooms due to Covid-19 restrictions that mirror those of Aotearoa.

Rangatahi with Omicron 

“We understand that there are now 50 in total, mainly rangatahi with omicron (21 in Dubai and 29 in MIQ),”  the Māori Party co-leader wrote.

Ngarewa-Packer says the primary concern for parents is a lack of communication over when their children will be retested so they can come home (Dubai requires a negative Covid test 72 hours before departure), and how they’ll be taken care of when they arrive.

“Whānau are concerned with the poor planning and communications regarding their testing, care and return to Aotearoa.”

“Can you please advise the status and provide guarantee sought and advise what measures are being made for their well-being and return to work,” she wrote.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MFAT) has been contacted for comment.