On Friday morning, removal advocates Roni and Ramsin Shawka were on their way to a job in the regional New South Wales when it was alleged that they got the call to tell them that they had tested positive for Covid-19. On Monday, their beloved mother died after also contracting the infection.
The death of Saeeda Akobi Jjou Stu in the family home in Green Valley in southwest Sydney has shocked and devastated the local community and her church congregation.
The 57-year-old mother of five who immigrated with her family from Iraq in 2016 was a member of the Batnaya Chaldean Association, a branch of the Catholic Church originating in northern Iraq.
The congregation paid tribute to her on Facebook.
Saeeda Akobi Jjou Stu has died in Sydney, a patriot of Adel Habo Belhad Shuka’s wife and mother of Rommel, Roni, Ramsen, Rita [and] Ranin Shuka, ”reads the Facebook page.
“A candle to the deceased’s intention, pray for it, and our warm sympathy from the Association of Batnaya Chaldean Sydney to the deceased’s family.”
Her twin sons, Roni and Ramsin Shawka, have been charged by police with allegedly traveling to western NSW for work while infected with Covid-19, and they will face Orange local court on August 30.
Michael Alan, a neighbor of the family, described the brothers as “hardworking” members of the close community.
“We can only imagine their pain. They came home with authorities on one side, people attacking them on another side and now they have to face this. It’s awful, ”he said.
In a statement, NSW Health confirmed that the mother had tested positive for coronavirus and that her death was the fifth in the current outbreak in the state.
She had died just three days after testing positive, NSW chief health officer Dr Kerry Chant said on Tuesday.
“You can get worse quite quickly with Covid. We do not have a mild case of influenza to deal with, ”Chant said.
“You will see rapid deterioration, so it is important that we work with people with Covid to support them with the best possible care we can, to ensure the best possible outcome.”
Chant said authorities had offered the family special health accommodation after she was diagnosed, but they decided to stay home.
Alan said many locals did not believe it at first.
“It was a shock. We live around the corner from them and it’s a bit surreal to hear something similar happen.
“At first we thought it was a joke, maybe it was one of those pieces of misinformation on social media. But when we saw it on the news, we were just shocked. ”
Alan said many migrants in the area were doing hard financially.
“It is difficult, many people from this area are not very wealthy. Most work for each meal or work on a loan. Everyone is in a very tough situation.
“Some people need to work every day to make money. It’s almost as if they had no choice. ”
Samir Yousif, president of the Chaldean League, said many newly arrived migrants in the community had to work to repay loans they may have accrued when they came to Australia.
“Many people who arrive have loans to pay, which is used to pay for their tickets to arrive here. So many young people are paying off their loans.
“And many people who come here also support their families at home and send them money daily. And there are many families who arrive with huge loans and they have to work hard to pay it back. ”
Yousif said it was a “tragedy” what happened to the twins and their mother and that a language barrier almost certainly contributed to the situation.
“We are so sorry for them for this tragedy.”
“The language barrier was a problem, they have only recently arrived in the country and cannot speak English very well, which meant they could not understand what was going on.”
The twins spoke to the Daily Telegraph on Monday, saying there had been a misunderstanding between them and NSW Health.
“Of course I feel very bad, I feel very bad for what I do [have] done, but it’s not my fault…, ”said Shawka.
“I [did] not kill anyone … it was me [doing] my work, I swear by God that I did not know it [I was positive]. ”
“I was driving and he called[ed] me from health [department], he asked me to stop working and go home, I was already in Orange. ”
“I gave them the number of my boss, I told them my language is not very good.”
Yousif said his community had been “smashed” by the eruption and the subsequent shutdown, and called on the government to provide more support to immigrant and refugee communities.
“We need more help because of the huge impact this virus has had on society. Especially for recent migrants and refugees, we need more support from the government. ”
“We have been badly shattered by this lockdown, especially the restrictions placed on the three LGAs in western Sydney that I feel are unfair. Of course, our society follows the rules, and many wait up to six hours to be tested. ”
“People do not ignore the rules.”