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Rail worker spat at, dies of COVID-19

A UK railway ticket office worker has died of coronavirus after being spat at while on duty. Belly Mujinga, 47, was on the concourse of Victoria station in London in March when a member of the public who said he had COVID-19 spat and coughed at her and a colleague.Within days of the assault, both…

A UK railway ticket office worker has died of coronavirus after being spat at while on duty.

Belly Mujinga, 47, was on the concourse of Victoria station in London in March when a member of the public who said he had COVID-19 spat and coughed at her and a colleague.

Within days of the assault, both women fell ill with the virus.

Ms Mujinga, who had underlying respiratory problems, was admitted to Barnet Hospital and put on a ventilator but died on April 5, said her trade union, the Transport Salaried Staffs Association.

Ten people attended her funeral.

The union has reported the incident to the Railways Inspectorate, the safety arm of the Office for Road and Rail, for investigation and is taking legal advice.

“We are shocked and devastated at Belly’s death. She is one of far too many frontline workers who have lost their lives to coronavirus,” TSSA general secretary Manuel Cortes said.

“The Health Secretary Matt Hancock recently announced that GBP60,000 (A$114,000) would be paid to the survivors of health and care workers who die as a result of the pandemic.

Our view is that this compensation should be extended to the families of all frontline workers who perish trying to keep our country and vital services going.

“Sadly, Belly’s is just one of many family tragedies where children have had their parents taken away from them.

“However, there are serious questions about her death – it wasn’t inevitable. As a vulnerable person in the ‘at risk’ category, and her condition known to her employer, there are questions about why she wasn’t stood down from frontline duties early on in this pandemic.

“Rather than talking about the easing the lockdown, the government must first ensure that the right precautions and protections have been taken so that more lives are not lost.

“Anyone who is vulnerable should remain at home and home working should be the default wherever possible.

“Our rail industry needs to have a very serious look at what tasks are deemed ‘essential’ and must put protections in place for all our members and our passengers.”

British Transport Police have launched an investigation “into a report of two members of rail staff being spat at while working at London Victoria station on March 22”.

One of the victims, a 47-year-old woman, very sadly died in hospital on April 5,” police said in a statement.

Enquiries are ongoing and anyone who has any information is asked to contact BTP.”

Angie Doll, managing director of Southern Railway and Gatwick Express, said in a statement, “We are devastated that our dedicated colleague Belly has passed away and our deepest sympathies are with her family with whom we have been in touch through this very difficult time.

“Tragically, many people across the country have now been directly affected by COVID-19, including those in the rail industry who are doing the vital job of ensuring train services can continue.

“We take any allegations extremely seriously, and we are investigating these claims. The safety of our customers and staff, who are key workers themselves, continues to be front of mind at all times and we follow the latest government advice. We urge people only to travel if it is absolutely essential.”

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