London-bus-driver
Photo credit: Yuri Turkov/Shutterstock.com.

The Mayor of London has today published a report on the impact of coronavirus on London bus drivers.

Green Party London Assembly Member Caroline Russell said:

“I was really concerned to see today’s worrying report on bus driver deaths from coronavirus. I note how many of these drivers already had breathing problems, which the infection worsened – this raises the question of whether drivers’ exposure to polluted air at work contributed to their underlying poor health.

“Exposure to air pollution at work is only part of the overall risk Londoners face from our toxic air. The Mayor has acted to bring in the ULEZ, but he could have gone for an all-London approach instead of stopping short at the North and South Circulars.

“I’ve long campaigned for bus drivers to have fairer rotas, better access to toilets and more attention paid to their health by TfL and the bus companies. That work is never more urgent.

“Figures now show that more taxi and private hire drivers have died across England and Wales than bus drivers. The big firms like Uber should be working now to investigate how their practices may have impacted upon their drivers’ health.

“I’ve asked for a regional breakdown from the Office of National Statistics of deaths by occupation, but none is yet available – we need to investigate fully who has been most susceptible to death and serious illness from Coronavirus and why.”

The ONS figures on mortality from COVID-19 by occupation show the following for the period between 9 March and 28 December 2020:

taxi and cab drivers and chauffeurs (101.4 deaths per 100,000 males; 209 deaths)
bus and coach drivers (70.3 deaths per 100,000 males; 83 deaths)

https://www.ons.gov.uk/peoplepopulationandcommunity/healthandsocialcare/causesofdeath/bulletins/coronaviruscovid19relateddeathsbyoccupationenglandandwales/deathsregisteredbetween9marchand28december2020

TfL had recorded 50 deaths of transport workers by the end of 2020, of which most were bus drivers.

Reccommendation 7 of the report today says:

Breathing problems appear to be a pre-existing issue reported by many London bus drivers, exacerbated in those self-reporting COVID-19 symptoms. In the longer term, air quality on London roads, to which bus drivers have particularly high levels of exposure, needs to be a priority for the Government and Mayor.

There are many facets to the likely correlation between air pollution and poor health outcomes in connection with a COVID-19 diagnosis, although a definitive answer is yet to be forthcoming.