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The government is planning to erect a memorial to transport workers who have died with coronavirus, potentially at Victoria station in honour of rail worker Belly Mujinga.
Transport secretary Grant Shapps said he wanted to commemorate transport workers’ “extraordinary input and effort” during the crisis, revealing that 54 have died to date.
Any memorial could be set up at Victoria in honour of Mujinga, he said. The rail worker died two weeks after she was reportedly spat at while working at the station by a man claiming to have coronavirus.
Shapps said he had “huge respect” for the transport workers who have died with coronavirus, stressing “they were doing essential work”.
He told the Commons transport committee: “Although we don’t know whether they died as a result of their jobs, they may have had coronavirus from anywhere, I would say of all transport workers – these are the people who have been getting the NHS workers, and the care workers and essential workers and our food and all the rest of it to the right places at the right times throughout this crisis, without which we literally... wouldn’t have food on our tables and certainly wouldn’t have the emergency services there.
“I think they have done a phenomenal job.
“I have spoken to the unions and others about doing something in the slightly longer term to commemorate transport workers’ extraordinary input and effort to assist in the country in this time of crisis perhaps with some sort of commemoration or memorial perhaps even at Victoria station where sadly Belly Mujinga worked but sadly died.”
Her colleague also contracted the virus and continues to recover.
According to Mujinga’s union, the Transport Salaried Staffs Association (TSSA), after the attack she asked instead to work from inside the ticket office, claiming she was scared for her life owing to her health problems which had forced her to take time off work in the past.
But these pleas went unanswered.
The assault on Mujinga was not reported to the police for seven weeks – long after she had died, leaving behind 11-year-old daughter Ingrid and husband Lusamba Gode Katalay.
Earlier this month, British Transport Police (BTP) announced it was taking no further action in the matter, stating it had found insufficient proof of a crime to justify any prosecution.
But the force later asked the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) to review the available evidence in “recognition of wider public interest” – though it has denied the case is actually being reopened.