A railway ticket worker in London has died from the coronavirus two weeks after she was spat at and coughed on by a man who said he had COVID-19, the disease caused by the contagion, the transport workers’ union said.
Ticket office worker Belly Mujinga, 47, and a female colleague were attacked by an unidentified man while they were working in the concourse of Victoria Station on March 22, reported The Guardian. The United Kingdom was placed into a nationwide lockdown the following day in a bid to slow the spread of the virus.
The assailant demanded to know what the women were doing at the station, per the BBC, and spit on them when they said they were working. Both women ended up contracting COVID-19, according to their union, the Transport Salaried Staffs Association. The man escaped and hasn’t been caught.
Mujinga, who had underlying respiratory problems, was hospitalized and put on a ventilator. She died on April 5, leaving behind her husband and 11-year-old daughter. Her colleague’s condition was unknown.
The British Transport Police and Mujinga’s employer, Govia Thameslink Railway, are investigating. Authorities are probing claims that Mujinga and her colleague were made to return to work following the attack, reported Sky News.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Wednesday described Mujinga’s death as “tragic” and said “the fact that she was abused for doing her job is utterly appalling.”
British lawmaker David Lammy, a Labour member of Parliament for Tottenham in north London, called it “absolutely horrific.”
“Belly Mujinga was spat at while working to keep the country running in the crisis,” Lammy tweeted. “Now she’s dead. We must not forget her sacrifice.”
Mujinga’s death raises questions “about why she wasn’t stood down from frontline duties early on in this pandemic” given her preexisting health condition, said Manuel Cortes, general secretary of the TSSA. He added that the union was “shocked and devastated.”
The coronavirus has now killed more than 32,000 people in the U.K. Only the U.S. has a higher death toll worldwide.
Johnson’s government faced accusations at the start of the pandemic that it failed to take the threat seriously. Johnson himself later contracted COVID-19 and was hospitalized for a week, including three nights in an intensive care unit.
Lockdown restrictions were tentatively eased in England on Wednesday, but the government has been widely criticized for sending out confusing messaging.
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