LONDON, ENGLAND - MARCH 20: British Prime Minister Boris Johnson speaks during a daily press conference at 10 Downing Street on March 20, 2020 in London, England. During the press conference, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson told pubs, cafes, bars, restaurants and gyms to close, whilst Chancellor Rishi Sunak announced that the government will pay up to 80% of the wages of those unable to work due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) crisis. (Photo by Julian Simmonds - WPA Pool/Getty Images)
Boris Johnson in intensive care with Covid-19
02:17 - Source: CNN
London CNN  — 

Nine London bus drivers have died from the coronavirus along with five other transport workers, as demands grow for better personal protection for transport employees in the UK capital.

London Mayor Sadiq Khan said Wednesday that he is working with the transport authority TfL, bus operators and unions to protect workers and passengers through new measures. These include enhanced cleaning, providing protective film for drivers’ screens, and boosting social distancing on buses and at stops.

The UK is still grappling with a surge in Covid-19 cases, with the country reporting its highest single-day death toll of 938 on Wednesday, bringing it to a total of 7,097 deaths and 60,733 cases, according to its Department of Health and Social Care.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who is suffering from coronavirus symptoms, spent a second night in intensive care on Tuesday amid warnings that the high point of infections is yet to come.

“I speak to experts regularly. We think the peak – which is the worst part of the virus – is still probably a week-and-a-half away,” Khan told BBC radio on Wednesday.

The Mayor tweeted a statement saying that he was “devastated” by the deaths of bus drivers and said his thoughts were with the friends and family of those who had died.

“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 (National Health Service) staff to save more lives,” he said.

“TfL (Transport for London) will continue to make enhancements across public transport in London to ensure there are even higher levels of protection,” he added. “But we all need to play our part too and that means fewer Londoners using the public transport network. Please follow the rules.”

After photos of crowded trains circulated last month, Khan reiterated that Londoners must work from home where possible to protect key workers who need to travel, and that passengers should avoid rush hour. He said TfL could not run more services due to the numbers of staff off sick or isolating.

In an interview with Sky News on Wednesday, Khan said that 14 transport workers had died – nine were bus drivers, three worked for TfL, one worked for the underground train system, and one worked for a TfL supplier.

Anne Nyack, the mother of Emeka Nyack Ihenacho, a bus driver who died from coronavirus, told the BBC that drivers’ lives were being put at risk as they didn’t have enough protection.

And Michael Liebreich, a former TfL board member, also told CNN that more needed to be done to protect drivers and key workers traveling on buses and other transport.

“I completely echo the advice it should only be for essential travel,” he said. “But even then there are pinch points, whether it’s the doors or whether it’s the sheer level of demand at certain specific points,” Liebreich added.

“We should be increasing capacity or keeping capacity as big as possible so that people can socially distance.”

He said every passenger should have to wear a mask, even if they were only homemade, to reduce the chance of infection. The UK government’s advice is that members of the public do not need masks, only health workers.

Unite, a union that represents more than 20,000 London bus workers, said on Tuesday that further action was necessary “to protect bus drivers and passengers.”

It said Unite health and safety representatives would be focusing full time on ensuring that safety measures were fully enforced. Unite regional secretary Pete Kavanagh said more action was “urgently needed” to protect drivers and said the maximum number of bus passengers must be reduced.

TfL has announced that it is trialing changes to how passengers board buses to try to protect workers. This week, it will introduce middle-door boarding – with passengers using the entrance away from the front of the bus, and the driver. Passengers are also being discouraged from sitting in seats near the driver.

CNN’s Simon Cullen and Sarah Dean contributed reporting.