Laura Byrne issues tearful apology after backlash over Kmart ‘down syndrome’ doll

Former Bachelor contestant Laura Byrne has shared a tearful apology after she mistakenly made fun of a doll with Down Syndrome.

In a since deleted post on her Instagram story, the 2017 winner of the Bachelor offered her thoughts and prayers for parents like her dealing with having their children stuck inside by the hammering rain in parts of the country.

“Good luck to all the mamas surviving the next week of rain with toddlers stuck inside,” she wrote over a video of her daughter asking for a doll.

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“I think we have enough crying babies at home, we don’t need another one,” Ms Byrne tells her daughter.

“And this baby here is truly petrifying,” Ms Byrne adds as she approaches one doll on the stores shelves. “That is a scary AF doll.”

One small detail she missed led to a backlash among her 303,000 followers, and a subsequent tearful apology.

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What Ms Byrne mistakenly overlooked, but what many of her helpful followers pointed out, is that the doll she found “petrifying” was meant to provide representation for children with Down syndrome.

“Baby Amelia with Down Syndrome” is the name of one of the $15 Anko brand dolls.

There is also a baby Charlie with Down Syndrome that Kmart sells.

Ms Byrne apparently didn’t see that until later, leading her to delete the offending story and apologise on Saturday afternoon.

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“Guys I just want to quickly jump on here, and I’m probably drawing attention to something that — f — k me I can’t even begin to describe how sorry I am,” Ms Byrne said on Instagram Stories from her car at around 1pm.

“I have just received a whole heap of messages from people … there’s a doll at Kmart that I genuinely just thought looked tired, and so many of you guys have message me to let me know that it’s actually an inclusivity doll, and I fill sick to my stomach for the mistake that I made,” Ms Byrne, briefly choking back tears, said.

“I had no idea and I’m really, really sorry for offending anyone, it was totally unintentional,” she adds through tears.

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Ms Byrne also thanked “every single person who messaged me”, saying they were “the best” because none of them sent her actually abusive messages.

“I really appreciate that your instant reaction was not to think that I’m an a*sehole, because I would never ever do that intentionally. Like I said, I feel absolutely horrible so thanks everyone,” she adds, throwing in a thumbs up at end the video.

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SA makes misuse of contact tracing info an offence

South Australia is cracking down on people and businesses that misuse contact tracing information from the state’s widespread QR code check-in system.

Police Commissioner Grant Stevens announced the change following the state’s Transition Committee meeting on Tuesday.

He said any individual found to be have misused contact tracing information would be fined $1000, while businesses would be fined $5000.

In cases where the offence is aggravated, police can choose to prosecute.

If the offence is pursued in court and a person or business found guilty, it would result in a fine of $25,000 for an individual or $75,000 for a body corporate.

This is the same punishment as any other offence under the Major Emergency Declaration.

Under SA rules, QR codes must be displayed at all businesses that require a COVID Safe Plan — including supermarkets, retail stores and gyms — as well as at private home gatherings where there are more than 50 people in attendance.

Paper sheets are also available at these locations for people who don’t have smartphones.

“There may be breaches where the owner or operator of a premises isn’t keeping that (hand written) material in a sufficiently safe way and that may be better dealt with an expansion,” Mr Stevens said.

He said the change was “simply providing a mechanism where we make sure people are doing the right thing with this information”.

Mr Stevens said there are currently nearly 50,000 businesses that have an individual QR code.

“We have a reasonably high level of compliance but … there are plenty of occasions where we see people walking straight through the door without checking in and we’re reminding people to do the right thing.

“It’s for their interests and it’s in the interest of the broader community.”

There have been ongoing concerns within the public that the private information collected could be used for reasons other than contact tracing.

However, Mr Stevens has long stated that the information, which is stored in an encrypted format within the Department of Premier and Cabinet, would not be used for any other purpose.

Mr Stevens also said if Victoria lifted its lockdown on Wednesday, SA would revert back to allowing regional Victorians who had not been in the Greater Melbourne area for the past 14 days to enter freely.

He said the earliest SA would ease its border restrictions with Greater Melbourne would be on February 25 but was conditional.

“If they can meet that 14 day threshold of having no community transmission, then we’ll be a position to lift restrictions for the Greater Melbourne area and only require PCR on days one, five and 12 when they come into SA.”

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COVID-19 Australian opens up about busy London mortuary

As the United Kingdom battles a fatal second wave of COVID-19, an Australian working in London’s largest mortuary has warned those back home just how deadly complacency can be.

Rose Carbon, a former Brisbane resident who now works as a mortuary assistant at a major southwest London hospital quickly running out of space as the death toll rises, said her team was “exhausted”.

The United Kingdom recorded its deadliest day since the start of the pandemic on Wednesday with 1564 deaths, while an average of 53,000 new cases are confirmed daily.

The total death toll now exceeds 88,590 and is the highest fatality rate in Europe. More than 20,000 people have died from COVID-19 in the past 30 days alone.

In comparison, 909 Australians have died since the beginning of the pandemic, and less than 30,000 cases have been recorded.

At the hospital where Ms Carbon works, temporary mortuaries have been set up to cope with the rising fatalities, but they too are quickly approaching capacity.

“People here are working harder than they ever have before,” Ms Carbon told NCA NewsWire.

“In the first wave, we said we couldn’t do this again; it’s so awful to be a part of.

“But this is 100 times worse than it was (during the first wave).”

Ms Carbon said it was extremely frustrating to watch so many UK residents become complacent, resulting in the spike in case numbers and ultimately more bodies in her mortuary.

“People don’t take it seriously (anymore),” she said.

“They don’t understand. This virus is so unpredictable. You can have it and be spreading it and not even realise.

“Complacency is very deadly.”

As the situation worsens in the UK, Ms Carbon said Australians should take it as a warning.

“If you look at the stats of when Melbourne went into lockdown … of course that was incredibly tough, but it worked,” she said.

“If you remove physical contact, you’re more likely to eradicate it quicker.

“You see examples like New Zealand. They’ve pretty much eradicated it by adhering to government advice … they listened to medical experts.

“If every single person in the UK adhered to government guidelines, we would get rid of this so much quicker.”

Ms Carbon said mortuaries around the country, and the National Health Service as a whole, were being “run into the ground” as facilities approach maximum capacity.

“It’s exhausting … We’re coming in on weekends, we’re staying back late just to keep on top of everything,” she said.

While an average day before the pandemic meant Ms Carbon was assisting with post-mortems, working with the coroner and other hospital staff, and contacting bereavement services, COVID-19 has added an unprecedented level of work.

“There are so many more deaths, and so much more infection control on top of that,” she said.

“We’re under an immense amount of pressure. We had a heavy day before the pandemic, but this second wave is so much worse than the first, and not enough people realise that.”

Ms Carbon said the dramatic spike in the number of COVID deaths at her hospital not only meant the mortuary was running out of space, but it was impeding on grieving.

“What we would usually do is offer a service where people can come and view their loved ones … It’s a crucial part in the grieving process,” she said.

“We’re not able to facilitate that anymore. That’s so upsetting, to the families and to us. We’re in this line of work for a reason, we have compassion.

“These people (who passed away) are someone’s loved ones. They’re not just figures in the newspaper, that’s someone’s life that has become extinct.”

Ms Carbon said the fatality rate from the second wave is so intense, funeral homes were becoming backed up, delaying the grieving process by at least three weeks as the entire industry struggled to keep up with the sheer magnitude.

“People cannot grieve properly, and cemeteries and crematoriums can’t keep up with the demand,” Ms Carbon said.

“That’s very intense. You get delayed grief.”

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