“The next thing I knew he just spat at me”: London transport workers fear deadly Covid-19 assaults
Spencer Suckling has been driving one of London’s famous red buses for 16 years. In that time, he’s dealt with rude passengers, stressed commuters and speeding motorists.
But the Covid-19 pandemic has brought new dangers for transport workers in the British capital.
Suckling was spat at by a moped driver during an altercation with the man two weeks ago in south London. The moped was speeding and Suckling pointed that out to the driver.
“The next thing I knew he just spat at me through my open window. Right on my face. He didn’t just cough. He physically spat at me.” Suckling told CNN.
“I got all the splatter and spray down my face.”
Suckling kept his cool. He sounded the alarm on his bus. British Transport Police officers were not far away but the moped driver fled before they could catch him.
“I was extremely shocked and alarmed. With what is going on, I was a little worried and scared. Before I even thought ‘oh that is disgusting’ my first thought was Covid-19,” he said. He spent seven days in isolation after the incident.
In the past two weeks London’s Metropolitan Police force has arrested six people for assaults on the city’s bus drivers alone.
Yet transport workers have not only caught Covid-19, but have died from it. The virus has killed more than 40 workers in the city, according to the Transport for London transit authority.
Belly Mujinga, a railway ticket office worker, was also spat at and coughed on by a man claiming he had coronavirus, while working at London’s Victoria train station. She died 14 days later.
Thankfully, Suckling had no symptoms and is now back at work, doing the job he takes great pride in. And despite this incident, he has not lost faith in the public in these unprecedented times.
“For once in my 16 years I think I have seen the public actually appreciate frontline workers, especially bus drivers. A lot of appreciation, at last, for what the bus driver does,” he said.
As the UK starts to move out of lockdown from next week, these bus drivers will be key to keeping London moving in the weeks and months ahead.