News, Culture & Society

Covid Australia: Iraqi removalists accused driving to regional NSW deny knowing they were infected

A team of Iraqi removalists from Covid-ravaged Sydney who drove to regional New South Wales for a job while infected have denied knowing they had the virus.

Roni and Ramsin Shawka, 27, Maryo Shanki, 21, and a fourth man, 49, were already in Orange when NSW Health called to inform Roni that he had tested positive to the highly contagious Indian Delta strain.

Police allege the crew kept driving to Molong, further west, to finish off their delivery before being escorted home by cops after two more of the men tested positive.

The twins and Shanki have now been charged with breaching public health orders and are set to face Orange Local Court on August 30.

But Roni, who moved to Australia from Iraq, says they are not to blame and he had not known he was Covid-positive.

Roni Shawka, 27, (pictured with partner) says he did not know he had Covid when he and a team of removalists drove to regional NSW 

Ramsin Shawka, 27, (pictured with partner) was also part of the removalist team and has since tested positive

Ramsin Shawka, 27, (pictured with partner) was also part of the removalist team and has since tested positive

‘Of course I feel very bad, I feel very bad for what I have done, but it’s not my fault. I was driving and he called me from the health department, he told me to stop working and go home, I was already in Orange,’ Roni Shawka told the Daily Telegraph.

‘I gave them the number of my boss, I told them my language is not very good. I did not kill someone… I was doing my work, I swear to god I didn’t know I was positive.’

The men face $11,000 fines each and up to six months in jail.

The removalists, who work as third-party contractors for a large western Sydney firm, drove to Figtree near Wollongong on Thursday for a job.

Their employer Aram Yousif then told them they must get tested for Covid-19 under new restrictions brought in by the NSW government.

The new measures require ‘essential workers’ from Fairfield, Liverpool and the Canterbury-Bankstown areas to undergo regular tests if they are to leave their Local Government Areas – now the epicente of Sydney’s outbreak which has climbed to 1,242 infections.

After getting tests under these rules, workers only need to isolate if they have symptoms, something all of the men say they didn’t experience.  

Having got their tests, the removalists left Sydney again at 4am the following day, driving down the M4 from West Hoxton to Molong, stopping at South Bowenfels and Orange.

The map shows were the men travelled to while they were infected with coronavirus

The map shows were the men travelled to while they were infected with coronavirus

The removalist were escorted back to Sydney and have been told to isolate for 14 days, and have been issued Court Attendance Notices for their alleged breach of public health orders (stock)

The removalist were escorted back to Sydney and have been told to isolate for 14 days, and have been issued Court Attendance Notices for their alleged breach of public health orders (stock)

At 9.36am Roni Shawka’s phone rang, but with the language barrier proving challenging, he told the NSW Health worker to contact his boss Mr Yousif.

Mr Yousif received the call which instructed him to tell Roni he needed to isolate in the cabin of their removal truck.

He claims there was no mention about what should happen to the other men, who were not showing any symptoms.

‘These guys have not broken any rules. We just followed the instructions, we have not done anything wrong by the public … but whatever a court decides we will accept,’ he said.

Shortly after they left the job in regional NSW, Ramsin Shawka and Maryo Shanki also returned returned positive tests.

Roni Shawka and Ramsin Shawka (pictured with family) moved to Australia from Iraq and live in Sydney's west

Roni Shawka and Ramsin Shawka (pictured with family) moved to Australia from Iraq and live in Sydney’s west

At this point, NSW Health ordered a police escort to usher the group back to western Sydney.  

In the last 24 hours police have attended just over 1,325 Covid-related jobs, with about 860 of those were reports from members of the community to Crime Stoppers. 

In total, 240 fines were handed out with 53 of those $200 infringements for failing to wear a fitted face covering. 

A further 23 people were charged with failing to comply with Public Health Orders. 

Huge car queues are seen at a Covid testing clinic in Sydney's Fairfield West on Sunday as cases in the south-west continue to surge

Huge car queues are seen at a Covid testing clinic in Sydney’s Fairfield West on Sunday as cases in the south-west continue to surge

A medical worker tests a driver at a 24-hour Covid-19 testing clinic in Fairfield West on Sunday, with the city's south-west having become the outbreak's epicentre

A medical worker tests a driver at a 24-hour Covid-19 testing clinic in Fairfield West on Sunday, with the city’s south-west having become the outbreak’s epicentre

‘This highlights that police are responding to the widespread concerns being raised by the community about breaches of the health orders,’ Metropolitan Field Operations Deputy Commissioner Malcolm said.

‘Clearly, no one wants to be living with these restrictions, but the best chance we have of getting out of this situation is if we all pull together to do our bit to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 in the community.’

The fourth man has returned a negative result and has not been charged. 

Read more at DailyMail.co.uk