Sadiq Khan has hit out at commuters who are refusing to stay at home following the deaths of five London bus workers who tested positive for Covid-19.
The mayor of the capital said he was ‘absolutely devastated’ following the coronavirus deaths.
He tweeted a statement saying that ‘lives depend’ on people following Government rules to stay at home unless travel is essential.
So far coronavirus has taken the lives of 4,313 people in the UK and a whopping 41,903 are infected with the disease.
Sadiq Khan has hit out at commuters who are refusing to stay at home following the deaths of five London bus workers who tested positive for Covid-19
The mayor of the capital said he was ‘absolutely devastated’ following the coronavirus deaths. Pictured is a huge crowd of Londoners trying to cram on to a bus on March 23 – the day the UK went under lockdown
Meanwhile, trade union Unite said the deaths were a ‘terrible tragedy’.
Mr Khan said: ‘I have been clear that our incredible public transport staff – on the buses, tubes, trams and trains – are critical workers, making a heroic effort to allow our NHS staff to save more lives.
‘But we need to play our part too and that means fewer Londoners using the public transport network.
‘Please follow the rules. Stay at home and do not use public transport unless it is absolutely unavoidable.’
Boris Johnson placed the UK under lockdown on March 23, meaning that people are only allowed to leave their house if they are key workers, shopping for essentials, helping vulnerable people or going out for exercise once a day.
However, Khan has come under fire for axing many train and bus services and effectively forcing commuters to cram in together.
During a press briefing last week, Health Secretary Matt Hancock said: ‘When it comes to the Tube, the first and the best answer is that Transport for London should have the Tube running in full so that people travelling are spaced out and can be further apart, obeying the two-metre rule wherever possible.
‘And there is no good reason in the information that I’ve seen that the current levels of Tube provision should be as low as they are. We should have more Tube trains running.’
One bus driver has claimed that workers for his company, Metroline, aren’t being provided with face masks or hand sanitiser, despite the risks of interacting closely with the public.
The father-of-three said that his best friend from work died last night from the fatal disease.
He believes that the friend must have been infected while at work because he did not leave his house other than to walk to work.
He added that the garage he works in installed hand sanitiser pumps in February but they still haven’t been filled.
The worker also revealed that he was still seeing passengers travelling in groups who he believed weren’t travelling for essential reasons.
He said: ‘Passengers aren’t giving us drivers enough space to stick to social distancing rules.’
Metroline has been contacted for comment.
Nicola Smith, who carries out ultrasound scans at a central London hospital, posted a picture of her journey to work online last week, showing Tube passengers squeezed together. ‘This is my Tube this morning. I live in zone 4 and work in a zone 1 hospital. I love my job, but now I’m risking my health just on the journey in?!’ she wrote on Twitter.
Last week, commuters packed in like sardines hit back at the Mayor, with one victim claiming it was about saving money, tweeting: ‘Using the pandemic to save a few pennies. Nice work helping the people you claim to represent’.
Another Londoner wrote: ‘Utter disgrace. We need professional leadership at this time’.
Nicola Smith, who carries out ultrasound scans at a central London hospital, posted a picture of her journey to work online last week, showing Tube passengers squeezed together.
Earlier that day, commuters packed in like sardines hit back at the Mayor, with one victim claiming it was about saving money
‘This is my Tube this morning. I live in zone 4 and work in a zone 1 hospital. I love my job, but now I’m risking my health just on the journey in?!’ she wrote on Twitter.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson has also told Mr Khan to get more trains running and Grant Shapps, the Transport Secretary, said he had requested measures to ensure the safety of those who need to use the London Underground.
A packed London Underground tube train on March 24 as commuters still use public transport despite Boris Johnson’s message to stay at home regarding the coronavirus outbreak
Transport union TSSA has called for police to be deployed at major train stations in London – including London Underground, London Overground and mainline railway stations – to ensure only passengers who are ‘providing vital services’ are travelling.
Aslef union organiser Finn Brennan wrote: ‘Getting lots of reports of early trains being full on the Underground. If the Government doesn’t shut construction sites and pay self employment, people will die’.
Unite regional secretary Peter Kavanagh said: ‘Unite will assist the families of our members in every possible way during this terrible time.
Khan tweeted a statement saying that ‘lives depend’ on people following Government rules to stay at home unless travel is essential
‘Unite has been working continuously with Transport for London (TfL) and the operators to ensure the safety of drivers and others in the industry who are performing a heroic job in getting NHS and care workers to their places of work.
‘These measures include deep cleaning of buses, additional cleaning of touch points, the sealing of screens around the driver, the provision of hand sanitiser for all and placing the passenger seating closest to the driver out of bounds.
‘I have been in direct contact with the Mayor of London who shares our view that bus drivers must be fully protected.
‘My officers are holding daily meetings with TfL, exploring further safety improvements and we are absolutely committed to doing everything in our power to make the driving of buses safe during this unprecedented crisis.
Meanwhile, trade union Unite said the deaths were a ‘terrible tragedy’
Mr Khan said: ‘Please follow the rules. Stay at home and do not use public transport unless it is absolutely unavoidable’
‘We are also calling on the Government to make provisions for transport workers in terms of personal protective equipment.’
Gareth Powell, TfL’s managing director for surface transport, said: ‘We have been extremely saddened to hear of the recent passing of our colleagues in the bus industry. Our thoughts are with their families and friends and we have been offering the bus companies for whom they worked every support possible.
‘The safety of our staff and customers is our absolute priority and we have been working closely with the bus companies, the mayor and Unite to implement a range of changes and improvements to keep the bus network and garages safe for those operating and using it, in accordance with Public Health England advice.
‘Our clear message to Londoners is simple – the transport network is only for critical workers who need to make absolutely essential journeys. Please, everyone else, stay at home, don’t travel and save lives.’
Manuel Cortes, the general secretary of TSSA, the travel and transport union, criticised ministers for insisting London Underground should run a normal schedule.
He said: ‘The idea that the Tube can run with a normal service level is utter nonsense. Thirty per cent of Underground staff are either off sick as a result of Covid-19, or in self-isolation.’
Mr Khan’s office hit back at Mr Hancock’s claim there was ‘no good reason’ not to have more frequent services on the Underground tonight.
A spokeswoman for the Mayor said: ‘This is simply not true.
‘The Mayor has told ministers countless times over recent days that TfL simply cannot safely run a full service because of the levels of staff sickness and self-isolation.
‘Nearly a third of staff are already absent – there aren’t enough drivers and control staff to do it.
‘The Government must act urgently to get more people staying at home rather than going to work unnecessarily – that means taking the difficult decisions they are refusing to take to ban non-essential construction work and provide proper financial support to freelancers, the self-employed and those on zero-hours contracts to stay at home.’