Belly Mujinga was a 47-year-old mother and ticket controller. During the COVID-19 peak in London, Mujinga was spat at by a customer. Just days later, Mujinga and a colleague tested positive for COVID-19.
Mujinga’s tragic deatn
Mujinga was admitted to Barnet general hospital and put on a ventilator. However, she was unable to recover. She died on the 5th of April. Mujinga’s family has stated that she ‘begged’ her employer to provide her with appropriate PPE. Additionally, her employers, Govia Thameslink, knew she suffered from respiratory problems, but disregarded the necessity of providing Belly with PPE and protection. Govia Thameslink also insisted she still works in the station and interacts with passengers directly, leaving Mujinga extremely exposed. After the spitting incident, Mujinga was sent back to work immediately afterward, despite physically shaking and appearing visibly distressed.
Mujinga’s family will not receive any compensation
Matt Hancock, the current Health Secretary, recently announced that the families of health and care workers who die as a result of the pandemic would receive a £60,000 payout. However, this does not include frontline workers like Mujinga. Why should compensation not be extended to the families of all frontline workers? Mujinga was a key worker and vital in allowing our rail services to run throughout the lockdown. It is a disservice to Mujinga and her family to exclude her from this payout.
When a virus does not discriminate
The UK government has continuously told us that the virus does not discriminate, but this cannot be said for Mujinga and so many others. This pandemic is disproportionately impacting working class and black and minority ethnic UK citizens. ONS statistics reveal that, compared to their white counterparts, deaths amongst ethnic minorities is significantly higher.
In early April 2020, the Intensive Care National Audit discovered that out of nearly 2,000 critically ill patients, 35% were BAME, despite these groups only making up 14.5% of the English population. This is a staggering figure. Additionally, BAME groups are said to be more likely to die in intensive care than their white counterparts. This is clearly due to years of deep-rooted, structural inequalities experienced by black and minority ethnic groups.
Mujinga’s experience highlights just one example of how structural racial inequalities have shown themselves throughout the pandemic. More needs to be done to ensure nothing like this happens again, and we need to protect ALL key-workers, not just those working in healthcare.