A team of Iraqi movers accused of driving Covid-ravaged Sydney to regional New South Wales after being told at least one had denied knowing they were infected with 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 for the highly contagious Indian Delta strain.
Police allege the crew continued to drive to Molong, further west, to complete their delivery before being escorted home by police after two more of the men tested positive.
The twins and Shanki have now been charged with violating public health regulations and will appear in Orange Local Court on August 30.
But Roni, who moved to Australia from Iraq, says it’s not their fault and he didn’t know he was Covid positive.
Roni Shawka, 27, (pictured with partner) says he didn’t know he had Covid when he and a team of movers drove to regional NSW
Ramsin Shawka, 27, (pictured with partner) was also part of the movers team and has since tested positive
“Of course I feel very bad, I feel very bad for what I’ve 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 Telegram.
“I gave them my boss’s number, I told them my language isn’t that good. I didn’t kill anyone… I was doing my job, I swear to god I didn’t know I was positive.”
The movers, who work as independent contractors for a major company in western Sydney, left Figtree near Wollongong on Thursday for a job.
When they returned that evening, their employer Aram Yousif told them to get tested for Covid-19 under new restrictions put in place by the NSW government.
The new measures require ‘essential workers’ from Fairfield, Liverpool and the Canterbury-Bankstown areas to undergo regular tests if they want to leave their local government areas – now the epicenter of the Sydney outbreak, which has risen to 1,242 infections.
After undergoing tests under these rules, people only need to isolate themselves if they have symptoms, something all men say they have not experienced.
After taking their exams, the movers left Sydney at 4am the next day, driving on the M4 from West Hoxton to Molong, stopping at South Bowenfels and Orange.
The map shows where the men traveled while they were infected with the corona virus
The movers were returned to Sydney and told to be in isolation for 14 days, and have been given a Court Attendance Notice for their alleged violation of public health regulations (stock)
At 9:36am, Roni Shawka’s phone rang, but as the language barrier presented a challenge, he told the NSW Health employee to contact his boss, Mr Yousif.
Mr. Yousif got the call instructing him to tell Roni to isolate himself in the cab of their moving van.
He claims that there was no mention of what to do with the other men, who showed no symptoms.
“These guys didn’t break any rules. We just followed the instructions, we didn’t do anything wrong by the public… but whatever a court decides, we will accept,” he said.
Shortly after leaving the track in regional NSW, Ramsin Shawka and Maryo Shanki also returned with positive tests.
Roni Shawka and Ramsin Shawka (pictured with family) moved to Australia from Iraq and live in western Sydney
At this point, NSW Health ordered a police escort to lead the group back to western Sydney.
In the past 24 hours, police attended just over 1,325 Covid-related jobs, of which about 860 were reports from community members to Crime Stoppers.
A total of 240 fines were issued, 53 of which were $200 for not wearing an appropriate face covering.
Another 23 people were accused of failing to comply with public health regulations.
Huge rows of cars can be seen at a Covid test clinic in Sydney’s Fairfield West on Sunday, as cases continue to rise in the South West
A medical worker tests a driver at a 24-hour Covid-19 test clinic in Fairfield West on Sunday, with the city’s southwest having become the epicenter of the outbreak
“This highlights the police’s response to widespread community concerns about health regulation violations,” said Malcolm, deputy commissioner of Metropolitan Field Operations.
“Obviously no one wants to live with these restrictions, but the best chance we have of getting out of this situation is if we all work together to do our part to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in the community. ‘
The fourth man returned a negative result and was not charged.