International News

Railway worker dies of coronavirus after being spat on

Belly Mujinga was alongside a coworker when someone coughed and spat at them telling them he had coronavirus.

Sam Edwards High Level, Alberta
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A woman who works at a railway ticket office has died of coronavirus after she was spat on during a shift at London’s Victoria station, according to CTV News.

Belly Mujinga was alongside a coworker when someone coughed and spat at them telling them he had coronavirus, said the Transport Salaried Staffs Association (TSSA) in a Tuesday statement.

The 47-year-old was employed with Govia Thameslink Railway (GTR) on March 22 when the incident occurred. Mujinga had underlying health conditions.

In a statement, British Transportation Police said that the incident is now being investigated.

"Belly and her colleague begged to be let to work from inside the building with a protective barrier between them and the public for the rest of that day," said TSSA in its statement.

"Management said they needed people working outside and sent them back out onto the concourse for the rest of their shift."

The women both completed the rest of their shifts outside without any personal protective equipment, said the union.

Mujinga previously had an operation for her underlying respiratory problems and had been going to hospital appointments regularly. She had also previously taken time off work for the issues.

According to the union, GTR knew about Mujinga’s condition and after the occurrence it still took a call from the doctor before they stood her down close to March 25.

TSSA general secretary Manuel Cortes accused GTR of failing to take the assault "seriously enough."

"As a vulnerable person in the 'at risk' category and her condition known to her employer, there are questions about why GTR didn't stand her down from front line duties early on in this pandemic," Cortes noted in the TSSA statement. "There are serious questions about her death, it wasn't inevitable."

The accusations are being investigated by GTR who said it takes them "extremely seriously" in a statement.

"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," said the Southern Railway and Gatwick Express managing director Angie Doll, in the 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," she added.

Within just days of the incident, Mujunga and her colleague became ill from coronavirus, says TSSA.

On April 2, Mujinga was put on a ventilator—only 11 days after the assault. She was transported to Barnet Hospital in north London.

"Belly died on 5 April, 14 days after she was assaulted at Victoria station," said TSSA.

She had a husband and an 11-year-old daughter.

"We are shocked and devastated at Belly's death," Cortes noted in the TSSA statement.

The union reported the situation to the Railway Inspectorate which is the safety arm for the Office for Road and Rail (ORR).

A spokesman for ORR said the incident is being investigated by the office when speaking with CNN.

The union feels that the front line workers are not provided with enough guidance or protection.

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

"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."

The TSSA also asked for frontline workers to be compensated by the government.

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