Zimbabwean UK-based rail worker dies of coronavirus after being spat at while on duty

Belly Mujinga’s death was not inevitable, the TSSA union said. Photograph: Family handout/Belly Mujinga/PA

A 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 south-west 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.

Mujinga, who had underlying respiratory problems, was admitted to Barnet hospital and put on a ventilator but died on 5 April, the TSSA union said.

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 on the situation.

The TSSA general secretary, Manuel Cortes, said: “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.

“The health secretary, Matt Hancock, recently announced that £60,000 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 easing the lockdown, the government must first ensure the right precautions and protections have been taken so 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 has launched an investigation into the incident. It said: “Inquiries are ongoing and anyone who has any information is asked to contact BTP by texting 61016 or calling 0800 40 50 40 and quoting reference 359 of 11/05/20.” – The Guardian