April 23, 2024

The Queens County Citizen

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A UK train ticket office worker died of Covid-19 after being spat at

Belly Mujinga died from Covid-19 after being spat on while working at Victoria station, central London.
Belly Mujinga, 47, was working with a colleague when a community member attacked them, spat and coughed over them and said she had new corona virus, his union said, the Transportation Salary Staff Association (TSSA), in a statement Tuesday.

Mujinga, who has a basic health condition, worked for the Govia Thameslink Railway (GTR) at the concourse station at the time of the March 22 incident.

The British Transport Police said in a statement to CNN that an investigation into the incident had been launched.

“Belly and her colleagues begged to be allowed to work from inside the building with a protective barrier between them and the public for the rest of the day,” TSSA said in a statement.

“Management says they need people who work outside and send them back to work for the rest of their shift.”

The two women returned outside and completed their shifts, adding to the union, but they did not have personal protective equipment.

Mujinga has an underlying respiratory problem in which he underwent surgery, appointments to ordinary hospitals and previously needed to take time off work, according to TSSA.

The union said the GTR knew about his condition and, even after the incident, only stopped Mujinga after doctors called him around March 25.

Manuel Cortes, TSSA’s secretary general, accused the GTR of not taking Mujinga’s attack “seriously enough” and criticizing the company.

“As a vulnerable person in the ‘risk’ category and his condition is known by his employer, there are questions about why the GTR has not rejected him from the frontline assignment since the beginning of this pandemic,” Cortes said in a TSSA statement. “There are serious questions about his death, it is inevitable.”

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The GTR is investigating the allegations, he said in a statement to CNN on Tuesday, adding that the allegations were taken very seriously.

“The safety of our customers and staff, who are key workers themselves, continues to be a concern at all times and we follow the latest advice from the Government,” Angie Doll, managing director at Southern Railway and Gatwick Express, said in the statement.

“We are very sad that our dedicated colleague, Belly has died and our deepest sympathy with her family, with whom we have been in contact through this very difficult time,” he said.

Both Mujinga and his colleagues fell ill from Covid-19 within days of the attack, according to TSSA.

On April 2 – only 11 days after the incident – Mujinga was taken to Barnet Hospital, north London, by ambulance and using a ventilator.

“Belly died on April 5, 14 days after she was attacked at Victoria Station,” TSSA said.

He left an 11-year-old daughter and a husband, who last saw him when he was taken by ambulance, the union added.

“We were shocked and devastated at Belly’s death,” Cortes said in a TSSA statement. The union said they accepted legal advice about the situation and supported Mujinga’s family and colleagues.

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It also reported the incident to the Railway Inspectorate, the Office for Road and Rail (ORR) safety arm.

An ORR spokesperson told CNN that the office was investigating the incident.

TSSA revealed the story of Mujinga when the British Government urged some people to return to work if they could not do it from home, easing some restrictions that had been imposed to stop the spread of Covid-19.

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The union said there was not enough guidance or protection for frontline workers, like Mujinga.

“Instead of talking about loosening of the lockdown, the government must first ensure that appropriate preventive and protective measures have been taken so that more lives are not lost,” Cortes said.

“Our railroad industry must have a very serious view on what tasks are considered ‘important’ and must provide protection for all our members and passengers.”

TSSA also called on the government to implement additional measures to compensate frontline workers from the railroad industry for their work during these difficult times.

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