Bus drivers in London have told Sky News they do not believe they have the proper protective equipment to do their job safely.
Transport for London (TfL) staff members, who wanted to remain anonymous, said they “are all scared” due to a lack of protective equipment during the COVID-19 outbreak.
It is claimed that some buses are not being cleaned properly and drivers have not been given face masks or gloves.
Mayor of London Sadiq Khan has said “lives really do depend” on people following government rules to stay at home, following the deaths of five bus workers who tested positive for COVID-19.
James, a south London bus driver for 11 years, has told Sky News he was a friend of one of the drivers who died.
The 56-year-old man was taken to hospital on 18 March and died a week later after contracting coronavirus.
“I used to work with him at a garage in southeast London. He was a great guy, always a joker, loved his wife and daughter very much,” said James.
The driver deaths have “hit close to home,” James said. He claims to know of another bus driver who is in a critical condition in hospital after contracting COVID-19.
The driver said he is concerned about a lack of care for staff on the frontline after he has had to stop work to self-isolate with coronavirus symptoms.
“Buses not being deep cleaned, we can see they aren’t even being touched.
“Drivers are not being given masks or even gloves now because we are being told to wash our hands multiple times throughout the day which would be great but since all the shops are shut a massive majority of us don’t even have toilets or sinks to wash our hands,” said James.
He added: “We are working longer hours doing Saturday duties to cover the drivers who are off.
“We have next to no toilet facilities or places to get drinks and food. We are all scared we are going to give our loved ones coronavirus as I have a small son. I’m trying my best not to even see him just in case.”
Mo, an east London bus driver, has urged people to take coronavirus seriously and to stay home.
He said: “Bus workers don’t feel they are protected enough. Passengers are using buses when they are not supposed to, you get young people, children, people going on picnics – when it should only be essential travel.
“The uncertainty has been increased with the news of the bus workers who have died.”
Mr Khan said: “I’m absolutely devastated to hear that five London bus workers have tragically lost their lives after testing positive for coronavirus.
“My thoughts are with their friends and families at this awful time. 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.”
He added: “All drivers on London buses are shielded by a Perspex screen and TfL have ensured measures have been taken to keep staff as safe as possible – with enhanced cleaning, stopping passengers from riding near drivers and boosting social distancing at stations and stops.
“But we all need to play our part too and that means fewer Londoners using the public transport network. Please follow the rules.”
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.”