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On Friday morning, removers Rooney and Ramsin Chuka were on their way to a job in the regional state of New South Wales when they allegedly got a call telling them they tested positive for Covid-19. By Monday, their beloved mother had passed away after also contracting the infection.
The death of Happy Akobi Jjo Stowe at the family home in Green Valley in southwest Sydney shocked and devastated the local community.
The 57-year-old mother of five, who immigrated with her family from Iraq in 2016, was a member of the Chaldean Patnaya Society, A branch of the Catholic Church that originated in northern Iraq.
Worshipers praised her on Facebook.
Happy Akobe Jjo Stowe passed away in Sydney, a citizen of Adil Habu Belhad Shuka and mother of Rommel, Ronnie, Ramsen and Rita. [and] Ranin Shuka,” the Facebook page reads.
“A candle on the deceased’s intent, pray for her, and our deepest condolences from the Patnaia Chaldean Society of Sydney to the family of the deceased.”
Police have charged her twin sons, Ronnie and Ramsin Chuka, with allegedly traveling to western New South Wales for work while infected with Covid-19 and will face Orange District Court on August 30.
Michael Allan, a neighbor of the family, described the brothers as “hardworking” members of the tight-knit community.
“We can only imagine their pain. They came home with the authorities on one side, and the people attacking them on the other, and now they have to face it,” 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 state’s current outbreak.
Dr Kerry Chant, NSW’s chief health officer, said on Tuesday she had died just three days after she tested positive.
“You can deteriorate very quickly with Covid. We are not dealing with a mild case of the flu,” Chant said.
“You will experience rapid deterioration, so it is important that we work with people with Covid to support them with the best possible care to ensure the best possible outcome.”
Chant said authorities offered the family private sanitary housing after she was diagnosed, but they decided to stay at home.
Alan said many locals didn’t believe it at first.
It was a shock. We live near them, and it’s a bit surreal to hear something like this happen.
“At first, we thought it was a joke, maybe it was one of the pieces of misinformation on social media. But when we saw it in the news, we were shocked.”
Alan said that many immigrants in the area were experiencing financial hardship.
“It’s tough, a lot of people in this area are not very wealthy. Most of them work for every meal, or they work on a loan. Everyone is in a very difficult situation.”
“Some people need to work every day to earn a living. It is as if they had no other choice.”
Samir Youssef, president of the Chaldean Association, said that many immigrants who have recently arrived in the community need to work to pay off loans they may have accumulated when coming to Australia.
“A lot of people who arrive have loans to pay off, which are used to pay for tickets to get here. A lot of young people are paying off their loans.
And many of the people who arrive here also support their families back home, sending them money every day. There are many families who have arrived with huge loans and have to work hard to pay them back.”
Youssef said what happened to the twins and their mother was a “tragedy,” and that the language barrier almost certainly contributed to the situation.
“We feel very sorry for them, for this tragedy.”
“The language barrier was a problem, they had recently arrived in the country and they couldn’t speak English very well, which meant they couldn’t understand what was going on.”
Twin spoke to Daily Telegraph on Monday, saying there was a misunderstanding between them and NSW Health.
“Of course I feel so bad, I feel so bad for who I am [have] Fork said.
“I [did] Don’t kill anyone… you [doing] My work, I swear to God, I did not know [I was positive]. “
“I was driving and calling[ed] me of health [department], he told me to stop work and go home, I was already in Orange. “
“I gave them a master number, and I told them my language is not good.”
Yousef said his community has been “shattered” by the outbreak and subsequent lockdown, calling on the government to provide more support to immigrant and refugee communities.
“We need more help, because of the massive impact of this virus on society. Especially for new immigrants and refugees, we need more support from the government.”
“We have broken this lockdown so hard, particularly the restrictions on three LGA companies in western Sydney, which I feel are unfair. Of course our community follows the rules, and many wait up to six hours to get tested.”
“People don’t ignore the rules.”
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