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Mother pleads for protection for transport workers after son dies of Covid-19

A trial to change the way passengers board buses in the capital is to be introduced following the deaths of 14 transport workers.

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A trial to change the way passengers board buses in London is to be introduced following the deaths of 14 transport workers in the capital (Victoria Jones/PA)

A trial to change the way passengers board buses in London is to be introduced following the deaths of 14 transport workers in the capital (Victoria Jones/PA)

A trial to change the way passengers board buses in London is to be introduced following the deaths of 14 transport workers in the capital (Victoria Jones/PA)

A woman has made a desperate plea for public transport workers to be adequately protected following the death of her son.

At least 14 transport workers in London have died from Covid-19, prompting a new pilot scheme which will see passengers board buses using the middle door to reduce contact with drivers.

Emeka Nyack Ihenacho is one of nine bus drivers who have lost their lives to coronavirus in the UK.

The 36-year-old worked in Holloway, north London, for bus company Metroline, which has also confirmed the deaths of two more employees.

Mr Ihenacho’s mother, Anne Nyack, criticised London Mayor Sadiq Khan, saying bus drivers are at risk of catching Covid-19 due to the lack of personal protective equipment (PPE).

Appearing on Good Morning Britain, she said: “He needs to get out there and have a look at the buses and see what condition the drivers are operating in.

“They are at risk, my son was at risk, sadly he died.”

She said her son had spoken to his partner and his sister about the “dirty” conditions on the buses.

Ms Nyack pleaded with Mr Khan to provide better protection for transport workers and asked him to visit the families of those who have died.

She said of her son: “He was given hand sanitiser – he had no mask, no gloves, nothing.

“Plus, he was asthmatic, he was open to the elements.

“I don’t want a letter or a telephone call, I want him (Mr Khan) to see the real faces of the tragedy, which is me and all the other bus drivers that have lost their lives.”

In an emotional tribute, a tearful Ms Nyack described her son as “a lovely man with a heart of gold”.

“He would help anybody,” she said. “He was full of laughter and always a joker, he had a nickname for all of us.”

On Wednesday, Mr Khan confirmed that 14 transport workers in London have died from Covid-19, including eight bus drivers.

In response to Ms Nyack’s claims, the mayor said the transport industry is using enhanced cleaning regimes.

Speaking to Sky News, he said: “We’re using antiviral disinfectant – the sort of stuff you use in hospitals – to clean not just the steering wheels, but the handles, the bus garages, the restrooms.

“We’ve also made sure passengers can’t sit too near a bus driver.”

He added that perspex screens with protective film are also protecting drivers.

Mr Khan said a new measure is being piloted which will see commuters enter and leave through the middle door of London buses, but there are concerns that this will lead to congestion among passengers.

The pilot scheme is being launched by Transport for London (TfL) with the trial to take place from this week on several routes operated by bus firm Abellio out of its depot in Walworth, south-east London, including two that serve hospitals.

Passengers using London buses normally board using the front door and leave using the middle door, to smooth the flow of people.

The switch in policy adds to other new safety measures such as discouraging the use of seats near the driver.

Bus use in London has fallen by around 85% due to the coronavirus pandemic.

TfL director of bus operations Claire Mann said: “London’s hard-working transport workers are making a heroic effort at the front line of the fight against this pandemic, and it is only right we consider everything we can to protect them.

“We’ve already delivered many other enhanced safety measures and by trialling middle door-only boarding on buses we can gain the information we need to see if we can further improve safety on London’s buses.

“Most Londoners can do their bit to protect our bus colleagues and other critical workers by remembering: stay home, don’t travel, save lives.”

As well as Mr Ihenacho, two other Metroline workers have died in the last few days – Alperton driver Said Musse and Willesden garage supervisor Paul Ahetto.

A Metroline spokesman said: “It is with immense sadness that we can confirm that three of our colleagues have passed away after contracting coronavirus.

“We are devastated by this loss and we offer our support and condolences to the families at this incredibly difficult time.

“The safety of our employees has always been our priority and we continue to do everything we can to make sure our workforce is as protected and as safe as possible during this unprecedented time.”

PA