Coronavirus: Artist paints portrait of bus driver colleague who died from Covid-19 – and calls for transport workers to get PPE

Emil Nikolla's portrait of Win Tin Soe. Picture: Emil Nikolla

Emil Nikolla's portrait of Win Tin Soe. Picture: Emil Nikolla - Credit: Archant

An artist has painted a portrait of a bus driver “colleague” who died with Covid-19 – and he’s calling for transport workers to be supplied with personal protective equipment (PPE).

Emil Nikolla's portrait of Win Tin Soe. Picture: Emil Nikolla

Emil Nikolla's portrait of Win Tin Soe. Picture: Emil Nikolla - Credit: Archant

Emil Nikolla painted Win Tin Soe, 61, who drove the 46 bus from the Holloway Bus Garage, after reading about his death from coronavirus on April 10 in this paper.

Scores of famous artist started painting pictures of NHS workers for free after Tom Croft gave a nurse a piece of her likeness last month.

Emil, who drives the P4 bus from Lewisham to Brixton, told the Gazette: “There is an artist Tom Croft who started to paint NHS workers and when he did that I thought: ‘I’m a bus driver and nobody is painting bus drivers.’

“It’s close to my heart really. By looking at the numbers and the deaths and knowing we have minimal protection. It’s something that’s in your head all the time, seeing other colleagues are dying. Every day you go to work and don’t know if it will affect you or not.”

Win Tin Soe. Picture: Theai San

Win Tin Soe. Picture: Theai San - Credit: Archant

He added: “It immortalises the person and it’s pretty moving for the family but also it’s just a gesture to somebody I have never known. I’m on the other side of London and I didn’t know him but we are colleagues. Art brings people together.”

Emil says he wears his own gloves and masks when working as a bus driver because they aren’t supplied to him.

Win Tin Soe didn’t catch coronavirus while working because he was off recovering from unrelated surgery. But other Holloway Bus Garage drivers, such as Emeka Nyack Ihenacho, died after catching coronavirus at work.

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Emil says he will gift the portrait to Win Tin Soe’s family once the lockdown is over.

Win Tin Soe’s daughter, Theai San, an NHS dental nurse, said: “The portrait is very nice, it’s a nice gesture. I was really touched. My mum got a bit teary just seeing that. I hope this will cause awareness and that PPE will be dedicated to not just NHS workers but all the workers.”

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As of last month, passengers can board buses via their middle doors to reduce contact with the drivers.

TfL says it is following Public Health England advice stating “PPE is not required in non-care settings and could be counterproductive”.

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