New South Wales recorded 15 new coronavirus cases on Saturday, amid concerns rising a cluster in Sydney’s west is growing, with three schools shut.
The figure is off the back of NSW recording seven new COVID -19 cases on Friday and 19 new cases on Thursday.
Six of the new cases on Saturday are returned travellers in hotel quarantine, eight are associated with the Thai Rock restaurant cluster and one is under investigation.
Of the Thai Rock cluster cases, NSW Health confirmed two attended Cerdon College in Merrylands and were close contacts of a confirmed case who attended Our Lady of Lebanon church.
The 15 additional COVID-19 cases is off the back of NSW recording seven new COVID -19 cases on Friday and 19 new cases on Thursday
Six are contacts of existing cases linked to Thair Rock cases, including two students of Mary Immaculate Catholic Primary School in Bossley Park and Freeman Catholic College at Bonnyrigg Heights.
These schools have since closed as a result, NSW Health said.
NSW Ministry of Health Dr Jeremy McAnulty said four additional cases of COVID-19 were associated with a series of funeral gatherings and a church service attended by a woman in her 40s, who tested positive to the virus on Thursday.
The additional cases include a couple in their 60s from the north coast, and a couple in their 50s and 60s from southwest Sydney.
‘Attendees of the funeral and other church services are now urged to get tested for COVID-19, regardless of any symptoms, and continue to self-isolate for 14 days even if it is negative,’ he said.
More to come.
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Good news at last: Victoria’s coronavirus crisis is ‘on a plateau’ as cases hover around 500
Experts say Victoria may be gaining control of the coronavirus outbreak as daily case numbers hover around 500.
Australia’s Deputy Chief Medical Officer Nick Coatsworth said on Sunday the coronavirus-ravaged state’s infection rate has stabilised.
‘It appears we’re in the plateau but we’re looking for the inflection point that tells Victorians that their efforts are being rewarded,’ he said.
Hari Krishnas cheerfully singing on the St Kilda foreshore on Sunday. Experts have taken heart that Victoria’s daily new infection rate appears to be dropping
It’s not time to celebrate yet, but hope is there in the falling new infection rate
‘We haven’t seen that yet but I have no doubt that we will see it. If you consider that stage three restrictions had us almost at a plateau, then the stage four restrictions will produce a result.’
New daily case numbers in Victoria have been stuck around 500 for the past seven days, falling to 394 new cases on Sunday with 17 new deaths.
Dr Coatsworth said the pandemic was challenging as you ‘never really know where you are on the curve’.
The rate at which the virus spreads is called the ‘reproductive number’ or R-0.
A family frolicks in a St Kilda park in Melbourne on Sunday as new case numbers fall
If the R-0 is at one, then R-1 means that every person with the virus spreads it to one other person.
Numbers above R-1 mean a virus will spread exponentially, but if the reproductive number falls below one then the virus will slowly fizzle out.
COVID-19 has a natural median reproductive number of R5.7, according to a study published in the journal Emerging Infectious Diseases, which explains why it exploded all over Victoria.
CORONAVIRUS CASES IN AUSTRALIA: 21,084
New South Wales: 3,861
Western Australia: 642
South Australia: 459
Australian Capital Territory: 113
Northern Territory: 33
TOTAL CASES: 21,084
CURRENT ACTIVE CASES: 8155
Victoria’s outbreak now has a basic reproductive number of R-1 – or just below one, Dr Coatsworth said on Sunday.
‘The ideal situation would be if we could see that reproductive number at 0.5,’ he said.
‘We don’t have enough data at the moment from the numbers to see whether that’s approaching 0.5, but in the coming days to week we will see that.’
Grim secret modelling by the Victorian Government leaked on Wednesday estimated the daily case load would rise to 1100 by the end of this week.
The dire forecast showed case numbers would then hover above 1000 per day and would not fall below current levels until the end of August.
High case numbers would persist well into September and October, topping 300 a day when the state’s stage four lockdown is due to end in September, according to documents leaked to The Australian.
But with the stage four lockdown reducing numbers quickly, there is a new burst of optimism, which was matched last Thursday by epidemiologist Professor Tony Blakely from the University of Melbourne.
Professor Blakely used a five-day moving average to smooth out the daily numbers, saying the outbreak has already peaked thanks to mask wearing.
‘It looks like the curve turned at 30 July. But more importantly, it makes sense.’ he said.
The professor said July 30 was about one week from when mandatory mask wearing was put in place by the Victorian government – which is also slightly more than the virus’s five day incubation period.
A lone protester was detained after a proposed anti-lockdown rally did not materialise in Melbourne on Sunday. The harsh lockdown and mandatory facemasks have already got new infection numbers falling, giving hope to the community
‘Mask wearing appears to have bent the curve, consistent with expectation. Or put another way, the numbers would be higher now without mask wearing, and much higher again without Stage 3 restrictions,’ he said.
He predicted a significant drop in the smoothed-out daily numbers would occur about 10 days from when Victoria put Stage 4 restrictions in place on Thursday.
He said once the numbers drop to around 200 per day, which he expects stage four restrictions will achieve, then contact tracing teams will be less overwhelmed and the state will be able to keep the numbers down.
There are now 634 people with coronavirus in hospital in Victoria of which 43 are in intensive care, Victoria’s Department of Health and Human Services said on Sunday.
Grim Victorian government modelling predicted coronavirus cases would peak in mid to late August, with average daily new cases hitting 1,100 per day – but experts now think this unlikely
Professor Tony Blakely’s five-day average chart predicted Victoria’s outbreak has already peaked and is now on the way down. Professor Blakely is optimistic that facemasks and the lockdown have reduced the virus transmission already
People enjoy St Kilda pier on Sunday in Melbourne with their masks and face shields firmly on as residents stick to Stage Four lockdown rules in order to crush the virus outbreak
So far, 1725 of Victoria’s healthcare workers have been struck down by the virus of which 994 are still active cases.
Melbourne’s metropolitan area has been the hardest hit with 13,445 cases compared with just 889 from regional Victoria.
On Sunday the state recorded 394 new cases taking the state’s total to 14,659 of which 7854 are active.
Little Italy in Lygon Street, Melbourne, on Sunday where 22 premises once bustling with cafes and restaurants are now empty. Residents hope things may return to normal in six weeks
Dr Coatsworth issued a plea for everyone to download and activate the Government’s COVIDSafe app on their mobile phones, saying it was needed now that states other than Victoria are easing their lockdowns.
‘We see what happens when you have an essentially open economy as you do in New South Wales,’ he said.
‘And that’s where COVIDSafe comes into its own.’
In Sydney’s western suburbs, 544 people were traced through the app which led to the positive identification of two new COVID-19 cases, Dr Coatsworth said.
New South Wales recorded 10 new coronavirus cases on Sunday, only one of which was a returned overseas traveller in hotel quarantine.
St Kilda pier, Melbourne, pictured on Sunday
Seven new cases are close contacts of previous cases, while two are being investigated.
New South Wales is the only other state to be consistently reporting new cases, with new case numbers hovering from 10 to 15 over the past week.
Health authorities have warned against complacency in New South Wales after 11 new infections were found with no known source.
Worldwide there were 19.9 million coronavirus cases as of the early hours of Monday morning, of which 6.3 million are active cases, 12.7 million have recovered and 731,104 people have died, according to Worldometers statistics.
The country with the highest numbers continued to be the USA with 5.1 million cases, followed by Brazil at 3 million and India on 2.2 million.
WHAT MELBOURNE’S STAGE FOUR LOCKDOWN MEANS FOR YOU
State of disaster: Increased police powers to enforce the lockdown. Cautions will no longer be issued, only $1,652 fines or court summons
Curfew: No one allowed outside 8pm to 5am except for work, medical, caregiving – no shopping or exercising
Distance limit: Shopping and exercise can only be done 5km from home
Exercise: All recreational activity is banned and you can only exercise, with one other person, for one hour a day
Partners: You can visit a boyfriend or girlfriend who doesn’t live with you, even if they live more than 5km away
Shopping: Only one person can go shopping per household per day
Cafes and restaurants stay open for takeaway, as do supermarkets, etc
Schools: All students learning from home from Wednesday unless they are vulnerable or parents are essential workers. Kindy and childcare close on Thursday (same exceptions apply)
Funerals: No change to funeral limits, but only 10 mourners can leave Melbourne to regional Victoria for one
Weddings: Completely banned
Public transport: Slashed after 8pm and cancelled late at night
Community sport: All community sport across Victoria is now banned. Only exercise is allowed within the permitted public gathering limits of two people.
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Oatlands crash: Parents wish happy birthday to daughter killed in horror crash with siblings
The parents of three children who were allegedly killed at the hands of a drunk and drug-addled driver have paid a gut-wrenching tribute to the youngest of the victims on what would have been her ninth birthday.
Sienna Abdallah was mowed down alongside her siblings, 13-year-old Antony and 12-year-old Angelina, as well as their 11-year-old cousin Veronique Sakr, on February 1 while walking to their local supermarket in Oatlands, in Sydney’s north-west, to buy ice cream.
The children were celebrating their cousin’s birthday on the day of their deaths – and it was the first time they had been given permission to walk to the store without parental supervision.
Seven children were struck just before 8pm on Bettington Road, one of the main thoroughfares through Oatlands, allegedly by Samuel William Davidson – the drunk son of a former NSW detective – who police allegee had drugs in his system at the time.
On Sunday, Sienna’s parents Danny and Leila Abdallah, celebrated her first birthday since the devastating crash.
‘You are my baby girl and my princess,’ a tribute to the birthday girl read.
‘You filled our lives and our hearts with love and joy. Today we were celebrating your birthday, but we didn’t have the birthday girl among us.
The Abdallah family (pictured) are seen before tragedy struck on February 1, killing three of their six children and their niece
Further footage shows Sienna in her gymnastics outfit (pictured), cheering about attending a competition and fearlessly tumbling on the concrete – as well as plenty of videos singing her favourite songs
The tribute began with a video taken at Sienna’s last birthday, as she excitedly blew out the candle of a cake (right) and featured plenty of unseen family photographs
‘We love and miss you dearly… Our hearts are broken and we believe that we’ll be reunited with you in heaven.’
The post was accompanied by a video slideshow including never-before-seen videos and photos of the aspiring gymnast.
As Ed Sheeran’s ‘Photograph’ played in the background, the tribute began with a video taken at Sienna’s last birthday, as she excitedly blew out the candle of a cake.
The video then switches to a clip taken on a boat, as her doting dad asks for a kiss.
Sienna obliges, before turning to the camera and cheekily wiping her mouth and flashing a grin.
The couple have previously recalled how ‘cheeky’ Sienna was. They referred to her as their ‘diva’, even at just eight years old.
Further footage shows Sienna in her gymnastics outfit, cheering about attending a competition and fearlessly tumbling on the concrete – as well as plenty of videos singing her favourite songs.
The couple finished the message by describing heaven as ‘lucky’ to have Sienna.
‘I am sure that Antony, Angelina and Veronique are beside you.’
As Ed Sheeran’s ‘Photograph’ played in the background, the tribute began with a photo of Sienna as a toddler (pictured)
Mrs Abdallah told media she ‘forgives’ Davidson (pictured), despite him allegedly being three times over the legal blood alcohol limit when his Mitsubishi Triton mounted the kerb, killing three of her children
Pictured: Mr and Mrs Abdallah with their three daughters. The eldest (left) and youngest (centre) were both killed in the horror crash
Just six weeks ago, Mr and Mrs Abdallah celebrated their eldest son Antony’s 14th birthday.
They made a similar video for his special day, describing the teenager as ‘a saint’.
The parents of all the children who were hit were on the scene within minutes, but it was too late.
Mr recalled the exact moment he realised something had gone terribly wrong.
‘It was like a warzone,’ he said.
‘Some guy ran up to me and he kept saying ”we’ve got to tell their parents”… and I said, ”mate, these are my kids”.’
‘I saw them. I went up to each one and I knew they were gone.’
Mr Abdallah tried in vain to resuscitate Antony, his eldest son, with mouth-to-mouth.
He found Angelina, who he realised was already gone. Then he saw Sienna, his baby girl.
The video then switches to a home video taken on a boat, as her doting dad asks for a kiss. Sienna obliges, before turning to the camera and cheekily wiping her mouth and flashing a grin. The couple have previously recalled how ‘cheeky’ Sienna was. They referred to her as their ‘diva’, even at just eight years old
Antony, 13, Angelina, 12, and Sienna Abdallah, eight, (pictured, left) and their cousin Veronique Sakr, 11, (right) were allegedly mowed down by drunk driver Samuel William Davidson as they walked to get ice cream
Leila Abdallah (pictured with her three girls) shared this photograph in the tribute video
The couple have previously recalled how ‘cheeky’ Sienna was. They referred to her as their ‘diva’, even at just eight years old
‘Sienna wasn’t good at all,’ he said. ‘Veronique wasn’t good.’
As more police and emergency services poured in, Mr Abdallah was pushed to the side. He watched as each of his children, and finally his niece, were covered with a cloth.
Once he realised there was nothing more he could do at the scene of the crash, Mr Abdallah headed directly to the hospital, where his middle daughter Liana was recovering.
‘She was there asking ”where’s my brothers and sisters”,’ he said.
Initially, he decided it would be best to lie to her, and assured her that her siblings were simply resting in another room.
But on the advice of a nurse who said she would never trust him again if he was dishonest, Mr Abdallah returned to her room to tell her the truth of the matter.
‘I said your brother and sisters have gone to be with God,’ he said. Liana was concerned about the prospect of having to be the big sister and devastated by the loss.
‘That was probably the hardest thing in my life. When you’re a dad, you’ve got to step up. Even when you’ve lost half your family. Because you don’t want to lose all your family,’ he said.
Leila Abdallah (pictured) is seen grieving the loss of three of her children after they were allegedly ploughed into by a drunk driver in Oatlands in Sydney’s western suburbs
As Angelina Abdallah (left), 12, lay lifeless just moments after a horror car crash, Margret Primc sat with her and stroked her head before planting a kiss on her forehead
Police allege Davidson had been drinking with friends at home before he got behind the wheel of his ute. He drove to a Caltex service station about 1.8km away from his Oatlands home to get cash. While on his way home, he allegedly ran a red light before crashing into a group of seven children
Liana’s mother, Leila, praised her daughter for the way she handled the tragedy.
‘She’s becoming resilient,’ Mrs Abdallah said. ‘She has seen the toughest. She’s like ”what is there to be scared of anymore”.’
Also at the scene when the family arrived was Davidson, the man accused of killing the children.
The 29-year-old builder faces up to 25 years in prison if convicted of more than 30 offences, including four counts of manslaughter and high-range drink driving.
Davidson allegedly blew 0.150, three times over the legal blood-alcohol limit, after the Mistubishi Triton mounted the kerb and slammed into the children.
Witnesses told The Daily Telegraph Davidson, who was also charged with running a red light, had allegedly been travelling on the wrong side of the road moments before the crash.
His passenger gave CPR to the victims while Davidson stayed at the scene until police arrived.
CCTV footage captured the vehicle travelling at speed down the street minutes earlier.
CCTV footage taken outside the home where the crash took place. The never-before-seen vision showed the children stopped in a circle and chatting animatedly on the sidewalk moments before disaster struck
Mrs Abdallah (pictured, centre) is seen as she arrived at the scene on the morning after the crash, after the children’s father Daniel said he was ‘numb’ from their deaths
Samuel William Davidson (pictured being taken away in handcuffs and shirtless) was charged with 33 offences including manslaughter
HOW THE TRAGEDY UNFOLDED
* Seven children were riding their bikes along the footpath of Beddington Road, Oatlands, just before 8pm on Saturday, February 1
* The children were on the way to buy ice cream when a Mitsubishi 4WD allegedly ploughed into them
*Residents raced to children’s aid and frantically tried to save them while waiting for emergency services
*Four children – including a boy, two of his sisters and their cousin – died at the scene
* Another boy, ten, was rushed to hospital with critical head injuries and remained in a coma for two-and-a-half months
* Two girls were taken to hospital with non life-threatening injuries
*Male 4WD driver, a 29-year-old from Oatlands, underwent roadside breath test and returned positive result
*The alleged driver Samuel Davidson was arrested and taken to Castle Hill Police with his 24-year-old male passenger
*Davidson was charged with four counts of manslaughter
Police allege the driver had been drinking at home with friends before he got behind the wheel to withdraw cash at a service station.
He was driving back home from a Caltex on Green Street when he allegedly ran the red light before ploughing into the group of children at about 8pm.
One female driver said she witnessed the car careening towards the direction of pedestrians and honked her horn to alert the driver, to no avail.
Davidson was arrested at the scene and remains in custody. He was seen being taken away in handcuffs and shirtless. Before the crash he was not known to police.
Davidson has been charged with 33 offences in total including four counts of manslaughter, four counts of dangerous driving occasioning death while driving under the influence, four counts of dangerous driving occasioning death while driving in a dangerous manner, two counts of causing bodily harm by misconduct while in charge of a motor vehicle and negligent driving.
The matter is expected to return to court later this month.
Charbel Kassas was trailing behind his cousins on a push bike when they were swiped from behind.
He was thrown from the bike, which was crushed in the crash, and was so badly injured his heart stopped at the scene.
But paramedics performed CPR and the 11-year-old was whisked away to hospital in a critical condition.
Charbel spent two-and-a-half months in a coma following the crash, and his family were told to expect the worst.
Now, he is known among family and friends as their ‘miracle’.
‘My cousins that passed away prayed for me to get better,’ Charbel told 7News in an interview which aired last month. ‘This is how I survived.’
He explained how he and his cousins never saw the car coming as they made their way to buy the ice cream to celebrate his older sister’s birthday.
‘The car came out of nowhere and just hit us from the back and made me in a coma for two months,’ he said.
‘It made four of my best friends die.’
Antony Abdallah was more than just Charbel’s cousin. The pair were also the best of friends.
Mabelle (left), who’s 13th birthday sparked the festivities which brought the children all together on February 1, witnessed the aftermath of the crash firsthand. She said she immediately went to check on Charbel (right) and begged God to keep him alive before going to check on her cousins
A documentary detailing the heartbreak felt by the families involved aired on Channel Seven on Tuesday (pictured, the Abdallah family before tragedy struck)
The parents of the three children who died, Antony (far right), Angelina, (second right), and Sienna (centre left) used their faith in God to help them heal
When he woke up, Charbel said he wished Antony had survived instead of him.
‘Best, best mates. I just love him. Like, I wish what happened to him happened to me and what happened to me happened to him,’ he said.
Mabelle, whose 13th birthday sparked the festivities which brought the children together on February 1, wasn’t seriously injured in the crash but witnessed to horrendous scene.
She said she immediately went to check on Charbel and begged God to keep him alive before going to see if her cousins were OK.
She watched the bike her younger brother had been on moments earlier crushed under the weight of the car.
‘The passenger came up to me and kept saying sorry,’ she said of the aftermath.
‘He kept hitting himself in the face. I went to all the bodies to see if they were breathing. They weren’t breathing. [But] Veronique was the hardest one to go to because she was over the fence.’
Antony Abdallah (pictured, left), 13, who was killed in the horror crash alongside his 11-year-old cousin Veronique Sakr (right)
In the weeks to follow the crash, Veronique’s father, Bob, obtained CCTV footage taken outside the home where the crash took place.
The vision showed the children stopped in a circle and chatting on the sidewalk.
After a few moments, the group stopped talking and once again began moving off camera, which was when the car, allegedly driven by Davidson, ploughed into them from behind.
‘Knowing they were unaware, they didn’t suffer, the car came from behind them, is the only comfort I get,’ Bob told the program.
‘She was called back home to God. I know she’s up there with her grandparents that she never got to meet on Earth. And knowing her sense of humour… the same as my mother… I feel sorry for everyone else up there.’
Mr Abdallah prayed with his son Antony (pictured) just hours before the horror crash in February
Distressed witnesses were seen being comforted at the tragic scene by emergency workers (pictured)
Micheal Sakr, 9, holds his mother Bridget’s hand for support as they visit the scene of the tragedy where Veronique, 11, was killed night along with her three cousins
Mr Abdallah, his children and his extended family all remain grounded in their Maronite Christian faith.
While the couple have lost so much, they said they will ‘always love God’.
Mrs Abdallah said she is forever questioning how her children were taken so soon.
‘I still love Him,’ she said of her relationship with God. ‘But I always ask questions. I ask, why God, why did you take our kids, what more do you want from us?’
Her husband agreed.
‘I’m human. I get frustrated. I get angry, angry with him. I cry when I pray sometimes. I ask him ”why would you to it to me? Why me?”,’ he revealed.
But their faith in God has never once wavered. They understand that their children have moved on, and believe they have encountered their children’s souls since their deaths.
God has always been central to their relationship and has forever guided them in their lives.
At 19, Mrs Abdallah met her future husband when he travelled from Sydney to Lebanon to spend time with family.
The pair laid eyes on one another at a party, and the next day, he arrived on her doorstep.
A small white cross statue sits against a fence in the days after at the scene of the crash
A photo of the victims hangs from a fence at the scene where seven children were hit by a four-wheel drive (4WD) in the suburb of Oatlands in Sydney
He spoke little Arabic, and she spoke even less English, but they were instantly drawn to each other.
‘His first question he asked me was ”do you pray?” and that was enough for me to fall in love with him,’ Mrs Abdallah recalled.
Growing up, she had always wanted one of two things: to become a nun, or to get married and start a family.
‘Either way, I wanted to honour God,’ she said.
Mr Abdallah added: ‘We always knew God was the centre of our relationship. We always put him first. We grew together.’
His six children – three boys and three girls – grew to have a similar relationship with God.
Angelina was more like a mini mother around the house. She was ‘the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen on this Earth… beautiful, selfless, courageous,’ Mrs Abdallah said.
‘They were kids. They were my world. We did everything we could as parents, and their love tanks were full.’
But while the family found it in their hearts to forgive the kids’ alleged killer, they have not stopped wishing for justice.
Mr Abdallah, who was also once charged for driving under the influence while in his 20s, acknowledged that the accused killer likely did not want anybody to get hurt.
Seven children were riding their bikes when they were allegedly hit by a blue 4WD driven by an alleged drunk driver three times over the legal limit (pictured)
Leila Abdallah (pictured) the mother of three children killed by an alleged drunk driver, bravely returned to the scene of the crash to pray the rosary on February 3
Their 11-year-old cousin Veronique Sakr (right, with her mother Bridget and brother Michael) was also killed
‘We all make mistakes. I’m not here to tell you how perfect I am because I’m far from it,’ he said.
‘You learn from your mistakes. I don’t think the guy wanted to do what he did, but he did it and there are consequences.’
The family are calling for laws to be changed relating to passengers.
As it currently stands, the passenger in the car has not been formally charged and will likely not be.
‘There should be fines if you’re in the car with a drunk driver,’ Mr Abdallah said.
Later in the segment, Mrs Abdallah described forgiveness as ‘a gift from God’.
She famously forgave the alleged killer just days after losing her children, and the family urged the public to avoid threatening any form of retaliation.
‘Forgiveness is a gift from God,’ she said on Tuesday night. ‘You forgive not because someone deserves it, but because you deserve to be happy and at peace.
‘But at the same time, we want justice.’
All four children now share a grave. They were buried in two heartfelt ceremonies earlier this year, surrounded by loved ones and watched by the public.
Mrs Abdallah (pictured) frequently returned to the crash scene with her husband in the weeks after the crash
United in grief: Family of Oatlands crash victims are comforted by hundreds of mourners at the scene where four children lost their lives
Hundreds of mourners gathered in Sydney’s north-west for an emotional vigil honouring the lives of the four young children who were tragically mowed down by an alleged drunk driver on Saturday, February 1.
Heartbroken friends and relatives crowded around a sea of flowers, candles and teddy bears on Bettington Road, in Oatlands – where siblings Antony, 13, Angelina, 12, and Sienna Abdallah, nine, and their 11-year-old cousin Veronique Sakr, were struck and killed.
Leila Abdallah, the mother of the three siblings, appeared overcome with emotion as she knelt down and prayed at the scene of the horror incident just two days later.
Mourners were seen comforting each other while laying down rosary beads, messages of condolences and framed photographs of the four kids at makeshift memorial along the footpath.
The emotional service was led by a priest who guided the crowd through a recital of the Lord’s Prayer and the stations of the cross.
The victims’ families are believed to be members of the local Maronite Christian community in Oatlands, where they are well known.
Heartbreaking: Leila Abdallah, the mother of the three siblings, appeared overcome with emotion as she knelt down and prayed at the scene of the horror incident
One unidentified relative was seen kissing a framed photo of one of the victims left at the makeshift memorial
Mourners were seen laying rosary beads, flowers, and picture frames at a vigil two days after the crash
Members of the Abdallah family comforted each other as they paid tribute to the children
Two relatives comfort each other as they mourn the loss of the four young children taken too soon
Large crowds gathered at the crash site after the Abdallah family invited those affected by the tragedy to attend the vigil
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White Island volcano survivor shares heartfelt plea to Victorians in coronavirus lockdown
Stephanie Browitt (pictured before the volcanic eruption) is her mother Marie’s only surviving child
A White Island volcano survivor who was left scorched and disfigured in the blast that killed her family has shared a message of encouragement for Victorians struggling through lockdown.
Stephanie Browitt is her mother Marie’s only surviving child after the family-of-four were torn apart in the eruption near Whakatane in New Zealand last December.
Along with grieving the loss of her father Paul and younger sister Krystal, the 24-year-old suffered burns to 70 per cent of her body and had her fingers amputated.
She now wears a full face mask to protect her mottled skin and has been cooped up in Marie’s Craigieburn home in Melbourne for the last eight months – since before COVID-19 gripped the nation and people were forced into their homes.
As Victoria ploughs through its second lockdown with record deaths recorded on Sunday, the young woman urged people struggling in isolation to enjoy spending time with their loved ones.
‘As someone who is grieving deeply and has essentially been in lockdown since early December … I truly believe that focusing on what you can’t change is wasted energy that could be used elsewhere,’ she told The Herald Sun.
Victorian police have been battling with Melbournians to enforce Stage 4 lockdowns, handing out 268 fines for breaches in 24 hours over the weekend.
The 24-year-old (pictured after the volcano with her dog) urged people struggling in isolation to enjoy spending time with their loved ones
White Island volcano survivor Stephanie Browitt (pictured) had her fingers amputated after the volcano
The number of active cases in Victoria has hit 7,854 with a record 17 deaths on Sunday.
Miss Browitt said it was okay for residents to feel upset and isolated as virus cases continue to surge, but added that she would do anything to have her father and sister in lockdown with her.
‘I feel as though people don’t realise how precious time is and that you don’t often get the chance to be with family like this.’
While she has had essential surgeries cancelled as a result of the pandemic, she reminded Victorians that lockdown will pass with ‘patience and perseverance’.
Her mother Marie, whose immune system is compromised fighting autoimmune diseases multiple sclerosis and Lupus, believed COVID-19 could kill her.
As the 24-year-old’s only surviving parent, Miss Browitt would be forced into a nursing home if anything happened.
The Victorian woman shared a picture after her skin graft surgery in July describing the agonising pain she has had to endure during her recovery
Ms Browitt has to wear a protective suit on her skin after suffering third degree burns to 70 per cent of her body
‘There are people out there, ignoring laws designed to protect their own family’s survival. I can’t comprehend it,’ Marie said.
The heartbroken mother said the pair still cry for Paul and Krystal daily, but joined her daughter encouraging Victorians to be proud that they can stay home and protect their loved ones.
Krystal, 21, and Paul were killed along with 19 other people when the volcano erupted on December 9, 2019.
When first responders arrived on the scene after the explosion, Mr Browitt urged them to save his girls before coming back for him.
Krystal was tragically killed in the initial blast, while Mr Browitt died later in hospital.
Stephanie (left with sister Krystal right) tragically lost her sister in the disaster and her father Paul
Ms Browitt (pictured with her father Paul) said despite the time that has passed, she remembers the eruption like it was ‘just yesterday’
Ms Browitt spent seven months painstakingly rebuilding her life and recovering in hospital.
She previously said despite the time that passed, she remembers the eruption like it was ‘just yesterday’.
‘Honestly, every time it’s the ninth of each month I can feel my heart racing and my body tense as the memory of it floods back in my mind,’ Ms Browitt wrote on Instagram.
‘I get anxious. I hate it so much, it does not get easier. It just hurts more and more when I think about how much time has passed since I was last with my dad and sister.’
She said she keeps wishing she could turn back time and at least have looked for her sister and father and sat with them during the aftermath.
‘We’re just picking up the pieces of our new lives and doing the best that we can do.
‘I just want to thank everyone for your kindness, compassion and constant support. You guys manage to put a smile on my face, even if just for a second.’
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