Number of London transport staff dying with Covid-19 increases to 60

Ross Lydall
·3-min read
<p>The total figure, up three from 57 revealed earlier this week, includes staff working for the private bus firms contracted by Transport for London</p> (PA)

The total figure, up three from 57 revealed earlier this week, includes staff working for the private bus firms contracted by Transport for London

(PA)

The number of London transport staff dying with Covid has increased to 60, including 46 bus workers, it was revealed today.

The figure, up three from earlier this week, came as Sadiq Khan and his Tory mayoral rival Shaun Bailey said London key workers most at risk of contracting Covid should be the next to be prioritised for vaccination.

In separate interventions, the Mayor and Mr Bailey said the second phase of the rollout should focus on higher-risk essential workers such as police, teachers and transport staff once vulnerable elderly Londoners and health and care staff were inoculated.

The total figure, up three from 57 revealed earlier this week, includes staff working for the private bus firms contracted by Transport for London to run the capital's buses, plus Tube and rail staff and TfL head office workers. The death toll includes 37 bus drivers and nine other bus workers, such as bus station staff.

Transport for London commissioner Andy Byford said: “I would like to express my sincere condolences to the families and loved ones of our 60 colleagues who have sadly passed away from coronavirus.

“Their tragic loss is devastating for us all, and I and everyone at Transport for London would like to pay tribute to the critical role they played in London's fight against this global pandemic. We will never forget them.

“Our heroic frontline staff and colleagues across the transport industry are the beating heart of London and have kept this great city moving through one of the most challenging periods in its history and helped ensure life-saving critical workers were able to do their jobs. I would like to pay tribute to them all.”

The Government’s vaccine delivery plan states that phase two of the roll-out – once over 50s have received the jab - may include “targeted vaccination of those at high risk of exposure and/or those delivering key public services”.

Mr Khan said teachers, TfL staff and Metropolitan Police officers might be more vulnerable to infection due to the public-facing nature of their work and because they cannot work from home.

He said the second phase should also consider “shop workers and others working on the frontline”, raising concerns that black and Asian Londoners “were over-represented in frontline occupations and have been disproportionally impacted by Covid”.

Mr Bailey, who is to write to the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation, said: “It’s clear to me that we should prioritise those occupationally at risk. In other words, police officers and teachers.”

There are high-level concerns among London politicians that teachers, TfL staff and Metropolitan Police officers might be more vulnerable to infection due to the public-facing nature of their work and because they cannot work from home.

More than 3,300 TfL staff are said to be off work sick, shielding or isolating. One in seven London Ambulance staff are currently off sick or isolating.

Nick Hague, headteacher of Marner primary school in Tower Hamlets, died just before Christmas after contracting covid.

Officials leading the Covid response in the capital are trying to secure rapid testing of transport workers and police to free them from self-isolation and enable them to get back to work.

London’s public health chief Professor Kevin Fenton told a City Hall inquiry into covid this week that he supported the principle of distributing jabs based on likely exposure to the virus rather than vulnerability to the disease, once the first priority groups had received their doses.

Professor Fenton said: “I think the evidence on key workers… and other factors which can increase the risk of acquiring severe disease may well be another way of thinking about who gets prioritised.

“Rather than focusing on one characteristic - a person's job - it may be that it is the combination of risk factors that would help to identify an even better, more sophisticated prioritisation strategy.”

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