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U.K. railway worker dies of coronavirus after man intentionally spits on her, union says

“The fact that she was abused for doing her job is utterly appalling,” Prime Minister Boris Johnson said.

Authorities in the U.K. are investigating the death of a railway worker who contracted coronavirus after she was allegedly spat and coughed on at London’s Victoria Station in March, the British Transport Police said Wednesday.

The announcement comes one day after the Transport Salaried Staffs’ Association said it had learned that the agency was investigating the April 5 death of Belly Mujinga, 47.

Image: Belly Mujinga
This is an undated photo, provided on Tuesday, May 12, 2020 by Agnes Ntumba of her sister Belly Mujinga, who has died of coronavirus after being spat at while on duty as a ticket office worker at Victoria Station, in London.Agnes Ntumba via AP

The union said Tuesday that Mujinga and another worker from the station’s ticket office were on the concourse in late March when a man approached them. Her husband, Lusamba Gode Katalay, told the British broadcaster ITV that he asked Mujinga why she was there.

“She said they were working,” he said, according to ITV. “The man said he had the virus and spat on them.”

The union, which added that the man also allegedly coughed on them, said that Mujinga and the second worker reported the incident to the ticket office and asked for the police to be called. Within days, the union said, she and the other worker became sick and later tested positive for coronavirus.

In a statement to NBC News, Mujinga's employer, Govia Thameslink Railway, said it is “devastated” by Mujinga’s death. “We take any allegations extremely seriously, and we are investigating these claims,” the statement said. The railway said that Govia had also provided CCTV to the British Transport Police.

A spokesman for the agency told the Guardian newspaper that it had obtained footage of the incident that showed a potential suspect.

On April 2, nearly two weeks after the incident, Mujinga, who had underlying respiratory problems, was taken by ambulance to a hospital in north London and intubated, the union said. She died three days later.

Mujinga leaves behind her husband and an 11-year-old daughter, the union said.

In a letter Wednesday to Prime Minster Boris Johnson, the union’s general secretary, Manuel Cortes, asked that a coronavirus compensation program for National Health Service workers be extended to transport employees like Mujinga.

“She put herself on the frontline and she has died of the virus,” Cortes said.

Speaking at the House of Commons Wednesday, Johnson did not address Cortes’ request but called Mujinga’s death “tragic.”

“The fact that she was abused for doing her job is utterly appalling,” he said.