Sadiq Khan says Londoners must stop all non-essential travel as Tube trains remained packed despite new restrictions on people’s movements during the coronavirus outbreak.
A hospital worker issued a desperate plea to the London mayor and prime minister Boris Johnson, saying simply: “Help me!”
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The NHS staff member said on Twitter: “I love my job, but now I'm risking my health just on the journey in?!”
Commuters posted several images of busy Tube trains for the second day in a row on Tuesday morning, despite Johnson ordering Britons to stay at home in a televised address to the nation on Monday evening.
The prime minister told the public they must only leave their homes for four reasons, including to shop for basic necessities and to perform one form of exercise a day.
They can also leave home for any medical need or travel to work if “absolutely necessary”.
But on Tuesday, Tube trains were again filled with commuters, leading Khan to issue an urgent appeal.
He demanded that employers enable their staff to work from home “unless it’s absolutely necessary”, adding: “Ignoring these rules means more lives lost.”
Transport for London has suspended the Circle line and Waterloo & City line, and reduced frequencies on other parts of the Tube network. Bus services have also been cut.
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The mayor said “growing numbers” of TfL staff are off sick or self-isolating, which means “we cannot run more services than we currently are”.
He added: “Many of those still travelling to work today are on zero hour contracts, work in the gig economy or are freelancers.
“A proper package of support for these workers would alleviate this situation and help public transport, and I’ve raised this with the government.”
TfL said passenger numbers on the Tube were down by 85% this week compared to last year.
Vernon Everitt, TfL’s managing director of customers, communication and technology, said: “Everyone must follow the government and mayor’s orders to stay at home and only travel if absolutely necessary.
“Only critical workers should be using public transport and no one else. Ignoring these orders will put lives at risk.
“We will continue to run as much of a Tube service as we possibly can so that those critical NHS staff and other workers can get to work, but as our staff themselves fall ill or have to self-isolate we are simply not able to run a full service.
“The majority of people are playing their part and avoiding travel, but more people need to stop travelling immediately to save lives.”
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Finn Brennan, district organiser for train drivers’ union Aslef, said: “Getting lots of reports of early trains being full on the Underground.
“If the Government doesn’t shut construction sites and pay self employment, people will die.”
Transport union TSSA called for police to be deployed at major stations to ensure "passengers on the city's public transport network are only those providing vital services".
General secretary Manuel Cortes said: "Only government has the power to enforce what's needed."
A number of commuters, many of them key workers, posted images of busy trains and buses on Tuesday morning.
Twitter user Robert Taylor posted a picture of a packed bus and asked if they are all key workers.
Nurse Danielle Tiplady said on Twitter: that being on the Tube made her “feel uneasy”.
Being on the tube is making me feel uneasy it is too busy&there is no space for social distancing. @SadiqKhan and @BorisJohnson you need to go further. Monitor who is getting on the train and allow more services to run. I feel like I am risking my health trying to get to work. 😷— Danielle T RN 💙#TeamNHS #StayHomeStaySafe 💖 (@daniellejade198) March 24, 2020
Nurse Julia Harris, who commutes to work at Imperial College NHS Trust, said she changed her route in a bid to avoid crowds but still found services busy.
“Seats on the train all had at least one person so people needed to stand, and the District line was busy as well,” she said.
“I still don’t think things have improved as a large amount of people are commuting early in the morning.
“It is concerning because I have to come to work. The choice isn’t there and my commute is quite long. I worry for my health more on my commute than actually being in the hospital.”