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Coronavirus: 236 bus driver tells of his Covid-19 ordeal – and calls for transport workers to be given PPE

PUBLISHED: 18:53 16 April 2020 | UPDATED: 19:11 16 April 2020

A man and woman wearing protective face masks on a bus in London. Picture: Yui Mok/PA

A man and woman wearing protective face masks on a bus in London. Picture: Yui Mok/PA

PA Wire/PA Images

A bus driver who caught Covid-19 while working has told of his ordeal – and called for all transport workers to be given Personal Protective Equipment (PPE).

Nelson Campos is a 236 bus driver and the star of this week's who's who. Picture: Lucas CumiskeyNelson Campos is a 236 bus driver and the star of this week's who's who. Picture: Lucas Cumiskey

It comes as a small group of trade unionists held a vigil outside Holloway Bus Garage on Thursday to honour two drivers who worked there and died with coronavirus.

The unions, including RMT, UNISON and the UCU, are calling on mayor of London Sadiq Khan to immediately provide PPE to all transport workers.

Nelson Campos, who drives a 236 bus from Finsbury Park to Hackney Wick, says he supported this protest and would have attended had he not been bed-ridden.

He caught Covid-19 while working and has been self-isolating at home for the past two weeks.

Sign calls for PPE for transport workers and other frontline staff. Taken at protest outside Holloway Bus Garage. Picture: Lewis Nielsen.Sign calls for PPE for transport workers and other frontline staff. Taken at protest outside Holloway Bus Garage. Picture: Lewis Nielsen.

Nelson, who works for Tower Transit out of the Lea Valley Interchange bus garage, says about six of his colleagues caught the virus at around the same time.

At least three of his colleagues have died with the virus - and Nelson claims one driver collapsed at the Tower Hamlets garage before being taken to hospital.

He told the Gazette: “I’ve had big problems, my nephew [seven] caught the virus because I brought it indoors and this kid was dying, having spasms and screaming. An ambulance came and gave him oxygen for like an hour. It’s horrible. It’s a very bad feeling when you think someone is dying in your arms.”

Nelson described his nephew as a “happy, healthy seven-year-old kid” before the incident, but says he’s now recovering at home with ongoing breathing difficulties.

Emeka Nyack Ihenacho. Picture: Jessica Nyack IhenachoEmeka Nyack Ihenacho. Picture: Jessica Nyack Ihenacho

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He added: “I was in really deep trouble at the beginning, I was not breathing well, I started to cough. My missus was concerned. I started to be isolated in my bedroom for a week, and then all the family got it.

“I was having a fever every night for more than a week. I was changing maybe six shirts a night [due to the sweat]. Then I lost my taste, I lost my smell. When I cut onions I didn’t know. It has been a really bad experience, I have been indoors for weeks and only now I’m slightly recovering.”

Nelson said of his employers: “I think they’re trying their best to do what they can to keep the services going because we have to carry the doctors and nurses around.

“But I think we should have had gloves and masks – they could have prevented this easily. Even hand gel, they should provide every driver with maybe one bottle a week.”

One of the Holloway bus drivers who died was 36-year-old Emeka Nyack Ihenacho, whose mother told the Gazette she would “fight for public workers” to have PPE.

Nick Stavrinou who drives the 393 from Chalk Farm to Clapton via Holloway bus garage said Emeka was a “true gentlemen”, adding: “We ask for masks and gloves but they won’t supply us with any.”

TfL’s bus chief Claire Mann said: “The safety of London’s bus drivers, who are all helping other critical workers tackle coronavirus, is our absolute priority. We have already delivered enhanced cleaning of all buses, improved social distancing for drivers and have made their cabs better protected.

“We are also protecting staff in welfare facilities with regular cleaning using hospital-grade antiviral fluid and fewer tables and chairs in rest areas to ensure social distancing, as well as providing enhanced sick pay so that people don’t attempt to work when unwell.

“The very latest advice from scientific experts is that PPE is not required in non-care settings and could be counterproductive. As this is being constantly reviewed the mayor has asked us to look into the availability of PPE for transport workers should the advice change.”

Tower Transit was approached for comment.


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