London bus driver deaths to be investigated in coronavirus study

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The pattern of coronavirus infections and deaths among London bus drivers and other transport workers will be examined in a new study after 33 deaths.

Transport for London commissioned the research, which Mayor Sadiq Khan said would ensure that every possible measure is taken to protect “heroic” personnel.

The two-part study will see TfL working with University College London (UCL) to “better understand the pattern of coronavirus infections and deaths among London bus workers”.

Khan said the study would guarantee that every possible measure was taken to protect “our heroic personnel.”

“As the son of a bus driver, this is deeply personal to me,” said Khan.

TfL said the two-part study was commissioned after the “tragic death” of 33 employees, including 29 bus drivers.

The first part, which is due to take place in the coming weeks, will review the measures, including cleansing and social distancing implemented by TfL during the pandemic to limit the spread of Covid-19.

The second part, which will span approximately four months, will examine whether frontline transport workers are more at risk of infection and death than the general population of London.

The study comes 10 days after unions called for tighter safety rules in response to data released by the National Statistics Office (ONS) suggesting that bus drivers were among the workers whose fatality rates Covid-19 was higher than the other employees.

Male bus and coach operators had a rate of 26.4 deaths per 100,000 compared to sales and retail assistants, at a rate of 19.8.

TUC General Secretary Frances O’Grady said that ONS figures showed the government “lacked safety at work – with horrible consequences for our lowest paid and most insecure workers”.

Professor Sir Michael Marmot, Director of the Institute for Health Equity at UCL, said that it was “absolutely essential” to better understand the high level of coronavirus infections and deaths among drivers of London bus.

“They are among our main front line workers who keep society running during this Covid-19 pandemic,” he added.

Concerns have been expressed that some London rush hour trains and underground buses remain crowded.

UK railways have increased service from around 50% of normal hours to 70% this week to reflect the relaxation of travel restrictions against coronaviruses.

Khan said it was “crucial” to keep demand for public transportation “as low as possible.”

“I urge all Londoners to do their part to keep our transport workers safe by using only public transport if you have no other alternative,” he said.

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