FIVE London bus drivers have tragically died after contracting coronavirus, it was revealed today.
London Mayor Sadiq Khan has now blasted commuters who refuse to stay at home and pack onto the crowded bus and tube services still operating on a reduced schedule.
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Mr Khan decided to run a reduced service for trains and buses across the capital during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Pictures taken since the lockdown began have shown workers crammed onto the captain's transport network.
Hero NHS workers slammed the decision, accusing Mr Khan of "herding" workers into packed public transport.
The Mayor has said he can't put more trains on because a third of TfL's staff has gone off sick during the pandemic.
'I'M ABSOLUTELY DEVASTATED'
His decision has resulted in NHS workers today claiming they are more concerned about travelling to work than treating Covid-19 patients in hospital.
The issue sparked a fierce exchange between Mr Khan and Health Secretary Matt Hancock, who demanded more trains be put on to prevent crammed carriages.
Mr Khan today said he's "absolutely devastated" to hear of the drivers' deaths – and tweeted that "lives depended" on people following the government rules to stay at home.
He said: "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.
"But we need to play our part too and that means fewer Londoners using the public transport network.
"Please follow the rules. Stay at home and do not use public transport unless it is absolutely unavoidable."
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Unite regional secretary Peter Kavanagh said: "Unite will assist the families of our members in every possible way during this terrible time.
"Unite has been working continuously with Transport for London (TfL) and the operators to ensure the safety of drivers and others in the industry who are performing a heroic job in getting NHS and care workers to their places of work.
"These measures include deep cleaning of buses, additional cleaning of touch points, the sealing of screens around the driver, the provision of hand sanitiser for all and placing the passenger seating closest to the driver out of bounds.
"I have been in direct contact with the Mayor of London who shares our view that bus drivers must be fully protected.
"My officers are holding daily meetings with TfL, exploring further safety improvements and we are absolutely committed to doing everything in our power to make the driving of buses safe during this unprecedented crisis.
DEATHS ARE A TRAGEDY
"We are also calling on the Government to make provisions for transport workers in terms of personal protective equipment."
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."
A five-year-old child has become Britain's youngest coronavirus victim as 708 more people lost their lives on the deadliest day yet, it was yesterday confirmed.
The NHS said there was 637 deaths in hospital in England in 24 hours.
It brings the total number of people who have died to 4,353.
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