London bus drivers’ lives could have been saved had on-board safety measures and first lockdown been brought in earlier, TfL research shows
- Study on London’s bus drivers carried out by University College London (UCL),
- Focused on 27 London bus drivers who had been working in February 202
- Boris Johnson announced the first national lockdown on May 23, 2020
Enforcing an earlier lockdown would have saved the lives of London’s bus drivers who died from Covid-19, an independent review has concluded.
The study, carried out by University College London (UCL), found that some of the deaths of workers in March 2020 ‘would not have happened’ if restrictions had been implemented sooner.
The report, which was commissioned by Transport for London (TfL), also found that safety measures such as hand sanitisers, enhanced cleaning and covering holes in protective screens were introduced too late for many of those who died.
UCL’s research focused on the 27 London bus drivers who had been working in February 2020 and died from coronavirus between March and May.
An independent report found that some of the deaths of London’s bus drivers workers in March 2020 ‘would not have happened’ if restrictions had been implemented sooner. (Stock image)
It also found that London bus drivers were three times more likely to die from Covid-19 than the UK average.
Professor Sir Michael Marmot, director of UCL’s Institute of Health Equity, said: ‘It is clear that an earlier introduction of the lockdown on 23 March 2020 would have saved lives.
‘However, we do not know whether an earlier introduction of workplace preventative measures would have reduced Covid-19 infection and mortality in addition to the lockdown.
‘We know pre-existing health conditions and ethnic composition play a role in Covid-19 infection and mortality.
‘The UCL Institute of Health Equity therefore recommends implementing a number of workplace changes to reduce exposure to Covid-19, prevent avoidable ill health and improve the wellbeing of bus drivers.’
The report recommended that all bus drivers need ‘continued protection’ through social distancing and mask-wearing.
It also called for early interventions to reduce ill health, financial support for drivers off work due to having Covid-19 symptoms to be maintained, and a review of the impact of working patterns on fatigue.
Among the bus drivers who died of coronavirus last year was Emeka Nyack Ihenacho, 36, who drove the number four bus from Blackfriars to Archway, and Kenneth Yeboah- a bus driver for Tower Transit who died from the virus on April 1.
In April, London bus driver Mervyn Kennedy, 67, who had no underlying health conditions, was rushed to hospital with breathing difficulties and died the following day from Covid-19.
Emeka Nyack Ihenacho (left), who drove the number four bus from Blackfriars to Archway, and Kenneth Yeboah (right) died from coronavirus last year
Mervyn Kennedy, (left), 67, was rushed to hospital with breathing difficulties and died the following day from Covid-19 and Ranjith Chandrapala (right), 64, died in May after driving the No 92 bus
And Ranjith Chandrapala, 64, died in May after driving the No 92 bus on the Ealing hospital route from the start of the crisis.
Transport for London has insisted it ‘moved quickly’ to ensure bus companies took action to stop the spread of the virus.
TfL’s chief health, safety and environment officer Lilli Matson commented: ‘This awful virus has taken much-loved colleagues from us, leaving devastated family and friends behind.
‘It is our duty to do everything humanly possible to keep bus drivers safe in this pandemic. This report helps to reinforce what we are doing and shows where we can redouble our efforts.
‘We will work closely with the bus operators to ensure that those suffering or at risk from coronavirus will continue to receive support, with vulnerable drivers having to shield being able to stay at home, with sick pay for those with symptoms and access to a range of services.
‘Further measures to improve ventilation on buses are being introduced, and we are working to drive a more proactive approach to drivers’ health and wellbeing.
‘In addition, we continue with our strong measures to ensure social distancing and the wearing of face coverings, and with our wider radical work alongside the mayor to improve London’s air quality.’
The study comes as Britain today saw Covid-19 cases fall again, dropping by a quarter from last week to 4,802 positive tests in a day while deaths also dropped by 42 per cent to 101.
Two other weekly studies, by the Office for National Statistics and the Covid Symptom Study, also showed cases are still coming down significantly.
However SAGE has warned that a resurgence of Covid in Europe could soon lead to a rise in infections in Britain and said the country is at a ‘more fragile point’ than it was a few weeks ago.
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