A railway ticket office worker has died from coronavirus after being spat at while on duty by a man claiming to have the virus.
Belly Mujinga, 47 years old, was a wife and a proud mother to an 11 year old daughter, Ingrid. Belly was sent out to work on the concourse of Victoria station in south-west London on the morning of 22 March when a man 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.
Belly’s cousin, Agnes Ntumba, said, “They went out and they met a person who said, ‘why are you here? And they said, ‘we’re working.’ “Then the person said, ‘I’ve got COVID’- and straight away he spat at them.”
According to the family, Belly and her colleague made clear they were scared for their lives and asked not to be sent back out and to instead work from inside the ticket office. But they were told that people were needed to work outside and were sent back for the rest of their shift.
Despite the pair saying they asked their employer to call the police, British Transport Police (BTP) told Sky News they could find no record of it.
A colleague who witnessed the incident said: “We begged not to go out. We said ‘our lives are in danger.”
But they were told they still had to go out. “We were told that we are not even allowed to put on masks,” the colleague added. “Govia has behaved reckless and negligent. They have failed in their duty of care. We are treated like we are robots.”
Belly’s husband, Lusamba Gode Katalay, said: “They weren’t given masks, or gloves, so they were exposed to everyone.
“It’s her employer, the company and the state who have to look at that.” Mr Katalay went on to say: “Me and Ingrid we saw Belly on 2 April when she left for hospital. Then we didn’t see her again. She’s dead and we buried her without being able to see her.”
Belly died in Barnet hospital on 5 April, having been placed on a respirator, two weeks after the assault.
By the time of the incident, the World Health Organisation had released guidance saying that people with respiratory disease were in an “at risk group”.
Three days after the incident, Belly’s doctor rang her employers and insisted that she be stood down. Another five days later, a manager asked her to provide the doctor’s letter in person.
Manuel Cortes, general secretary for transport union TSSA, 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.
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 GTR (Belly’s employer) didn’t stand her down from frontline duties early on in this pandemic.
“The assault she suffered at work was scary and we do not think the company treated it seriously enough. 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.”
Yesterday the Rail, Maritime and Transport union (RMT) advised its members not to work if they felt unsafe, amid fears over a surge in passengers on the railways and Tubes. It said the Government was shifting away from the stay at home message, which would unleash a surge in passengers breaching social- distancing measures with ‘potentially lethal consequences’ for staff and the public.
The statement said: ‘To be clear no agreement has been made to change any working practices or social distancing arrangement. Therefore if two metre social distancing cannot be maintained we consider it to be unsafe and members have the legal right to use the worksafe process.”
Colleague Akin Macaulay wrote: ‘Belly, my colleague and my birthday mate, may your soul rest in peace and may the Lord comfort your Husband and daughter and the extended family at this time and uphold them all.’
Mr Macaulay shared a fundraising page which had raised £1,500 to support the GTR worker’s family. You can support it below –