Middle doors on London bus
Transport for London barred passengers from using the front doors of most of its buses earlier this week

The family of a London bus driver who died with Covid-19 said today a lack of protective equipment for public transport workers and delays to improving safety had “cost lives”.

Mervyn Mally Kennedy is one of 29 transport staff — including 23 bus drivers and workers — to have died with the virus amid claims they have not been adequately shielded.

The 67-year-old, a “proud and loving” father of three and grandfather of seven who had no underlying health conditions, was taken to hospital on April 6 when he started struggling to breathe.

His three daughters – one of whom is a nurse at Lewisham Hospital – had to make the heartbreaking decision to turn off his ventilator just a day later when doctors told them that he would not survive.

Penny Palmer, a paediatric nurse, said she believed her father would still be alive if he had been given personal protective equipment at work.

Palmer, 33, said: “My dad was a proud, noble, loving family man. We lost my mother to pneumonia in 2004 and her dying words were ‘look after the girls’. That’s exactly what he always did. It was so difficult not being able to see him in those final moments.”

Kennedy had worked as a London bus driver for 16 years, having moved to Croydon from Zimbabwe in 1999.

Mervyn Mally Kennedy
Mervyn Mally Kennedy was “a loving father”, his daughter said

His family have set up an online fundraising page to pay for his funeral and to fund PPE for bus drivers. Ms Palmer added: “It is people like my dad who are driving the NHS staff and carers to work. The changes that have been brought in should have happened much quicker. The lack of equipment and delays has cost lives.”

The family are also trying to start a “beep for drivers” campaign, where people sound their horns every Wednesday at 12pm to show appreciation for transport workers.

Palmer added: “It’s so important these workers feel appreciated. They are keeping the country going.”

The announcement of Mr Kennedy’s death follows the confirmation of two more fatalities of bus drivers with coronavirus over the weekend. Camberwell-based Errol Gordon and Edward John, who worked in Putney, both drove for the Go-Ahead bus company.

Claire Mann, Transport for London’s director of bus operations, said she and colleagues were “utterly devastated that Mervyn Kennedy has died as a result of the coronavirus pandemic”.

But she said the “very latest scientific advice” was that PPE was “not required in non-care settings and could be counter-productive”.

She added: “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.”

On Monday, TfL stopped passengers from using the front doors of most of its buses in an attempt to protect drivers.

The tribute page to help Mervyn Mally Kennedy’s family can be found at GoFundMe.


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Rachael Burford is the Local Democracy Reporter for Tower Hamlets. The Local Democracy Reporter Service is a BBC-funded initiative to ensure councils are covered properly in local media.
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