New figures show the disproportionate death toll Covid-19 had on Black and Asian Transport for London (TfL) staff.
Of the 105 TfL employees and partner organisations who died from the virus between March 2020 and May 2022, which included cleaning and security contractors, 27 staff were Asian, 33 were Black, 28 were white, and one recorded as mixed-ethnicity, with such data unavailable in sixteen cases.
Staff who died from the virus overwhelmingly worked on the London bus network, with 75 deaths recorded as 23 members of staff worked on the Tube network.
Of the figure released by the Mayor’s office, 100 of the 105 deaths were male.
A similar question, asked by Caroline Russell from the City Hall Greens, answered in December last year, gave an age breakdown –75 of the 102 deaths recorded were aged 45-64, with 17 deaths recorded amongst staff aged over 65, as five deaths of those aged between 25-44, with five recorded with no discernable age figure.
Some harrowing, heartbreaking stories of those essential workers lost to the virus appeared in the Guardian’s ‘Lost to the virus‘ series, written with great compassion and care by Shirin Kale, including the story of 55-year-old London taxi driver John Ho.
Examples included 58-year-old Rodolfo ‘Rudy’ Silva, who wanted to retire back in the Philippines and enjoy their golf, as his son Rodrick described their anger at TfL for not providing drivers with PPE sooner. “He had no mask, no gloves, no PPE,” says Rodrick as people continued to board buses at the front entrances.
The Guardian published five eulogies profiling the deaths of five bus drivers (including Rudy) in London from the virus in the summer of 2020 – including Nadir Nur (48), Kenneth Yeboah (55), Emeka Nyack Ihenacho (36) and 64-year-old Ranjith Chandrapala.
Anne Nyack, the mother of Emeka Nyack Ihenacho (who was also a father-of-one), told The Mirror that her son feared missing work during the pandemic due to the risk of losing pay.
Bishara Maye, who spoke of the dedication of her late husband Nadir Nur, told PA that “Nadir and his colleagues had no PPE whatsoever,” and “Bus drivers are doing their part for the country; we should be protecting them.”
The harrowing case of 67-year-old Mervyn ‘Mally’ Kennedy revealed how he continued driving buses in London in the first weeks of the pandemic with just a pair of plastic gloves – as told by Shirin Kale. Drivers used social media to organise for better protection, as another driver, identified in the piece as 33-year-old Moe Manir, described how it became acts of whistleblowing.
In response to the question, Mayor Sadiq Khan said: “Every death in service is taken very seriously by TfL. TfL has put in place a range of additional support for families and colleagues where there has been a bereavement.”
A University of London study published in 2020 revealed that an earlier national lockdown “would likely have saved more lives” of bus drivers.
Black bus drivers were also most likely (23 per cent) to use public transport to work, the follow-up report revealed when stringent measures were not yet mandatory.
Hitesh Patel, 50, who died from covid in November 2020, may have caught the virus at work as a sacked bus driver went public with allegations of coverups of covid outbreaks at bus depots across London.
MyLondon and other media outlets explored the factors behind disproportionate death rates amongst TfL bus drivers in 2021.