South London corner shop worker becomes latest to die from coronavirus

The forgotten frontline: Fears grow for shopkeepers and supermarket staff as corner shop worker becomes latest to die from coronavirus

  • Staff member at FreshGo in Gipsy Hill, south London, died after spell in hospital
  • Known only as Kumar, he worked alongside others at store, which is still open 
  • Locals said the small shop with narrow aisles failed to observe ‘one in, one out’ policy and staff were given little protection
  • Among other shop workers to have died from Covid-19 are Raj Aggarwal, 51 – two weeks after dropping off tea and biscuits to NHS staff at Glenfield Hospital, Leics
  • Learn more about how to help people impacted by COVID

Concerns have been raised about the safety of shopkeepers and supermarket staff during the coronavirus pandemic after a spate of deaths among workers.

The latest saw a member of staff at FreshGo in Gipsy Hill, south London, die following a spell in hospital.

The staff member, known only as Kumar, is believed to have worked alongside others at the convenience store, which is still open.

It is understood another staff member from the same store is also fighting the virus in a London hospital.

Concerned locals said the store – which is tiny and has narrow aisles – had failed to observe a ‘one in, one out’ policy and staff were given little protection.

A member of staff, known only as Kumar (above), who worked at FreshGo in Gipsy Hill, south London, has died from coronavirus. There are growing concerns about the safety of shop workers during the pandemic after a spate of deaths among those working in retail

Kumar died following a spell in hospital. He is understood to have worked alongside others at the convenience store (above), which is still open. Concerned locals said the store, which is tiny and has narrow aisles, failed to observe a ‘one in, one out’ policy and staff were given little protection

Above, a sign outside the FreshGo shop in Gipsy Hill offering support during coronavirus. It is understood another staff member from the same store is also fighting the virus in a London hospital

A JustGiving site has already raised almost £2,000 for the man’s family, with organiser Siobhann Carolan saying: ‘Kumar worked tirelessly for years at FreshGo and was liked by all the customers.

‘He was always helpful, cheerful and considerate at any time of the day or night. The funds raised will go directly to his family to help them through this truly difficult time.’

But other store users said they were upset more had not been done to limit the spread of the virus in the shop.

Jade Kyle said: ‘That is so sad. They’re all such good guys. I did wonder why they suddenly implemented social distancing in the shop only yesterday.’

Georgia Mancio said: ‘With this extra pressure on the smaller shops, I think they should all only allow one person in at a time.’

Sandra Schmidt added: ‘This is terrible. I’m actually in tears. My partner went in there four weeks ago and no one was wearing masks or gloves. 

There has been a glut of coronavirus deaths among shopkeepers and their staff. They include 51-year-old Raj Aggarwal – whose last Facebook post (above) showed him dropping off a carload of tea, coffee and biscuits to NHS workers at Glenfield Hospital in Leicester

Just 13 days after his Facebook post, Mr Aggarwal (above, with his wife, Sunita), a father-of-two who ran two Spar shops and a coffee outlet with his brother Sanjiv, 50, lost his life

‘My partner was the only one in there with mask and gloves and they all looked at him like he was deranged. Someone asked the man if they were intending to stay open and he said “We will always be open!”. We laughed at it then. That was the last time any of us went there.’

Kayleigh Louise Barnes replied: ‘To be fair all the men that work there have been in contact with him so they should be isolating but they’re still open which is a bit selfish considering they are serving the public.’

Jen Batchelor added: ‘They need to completely deep clean the shop and products and the other staff members should be self isolating.’

It comes after a glut of other deaths among shopkeepers and their staff.

They include Raj Aggarwal – whose last Facebook post showed him dropping off a carload of tea, coffee and biscuits to NHS workers at Glenfield Hospital in Leicester.

But just 13 days later, the father-of-two, 51, who ran two Spar shops and a coffee outlet with his brother Sanjiv, 50, lost his life.

On March 27 he posted on Facebook: ‘Next stop Glenfield Hospital, Leicester, dropping off Tea, Coffee and Biscuits for our frontline NHS staff who are doing an amazing job #strongertogether.’

Stuart Reddish, national president of the Federation of Independent Retailers (NFRN), told MailOnline today: ‘We are deeply saddened to have lost four of our members from coronavirus and the Federation is doing everything it can to support their families at this time. 

‘Independent stores are at the heart of their communities and NFRN members, their family members and their staff are going above and beyond to provide their customers with the essentials that they need, whether this is from their shops or by offering delivery services to the elderly, vulnerable and housebound. 

‘In these most challenging of times, they are risking their own health and safety to provide communities and customers with a vital lifeline and I am tremendously proud of them.’

The NFRN has also launched a fund to help shopkeepers suffering hardship if they feel they cannot stay open.

The NFRN Covid-19 Hardship Fund has been created to alleviate some of the financial pressures that independent retailers may be facing.

It will offer financial assistance in the form of a grant to members suffering cash flow and other financial challenges.

Announcing its launch on April 6, Mr Reddish, who is a retailer in Sheffield, said: ‘The impact of Covid-19 on the lives and businesses of some independent retailers has been unprecedented.

‘We are acutely aware that some members are facing significant day-to-day financial challenges and that the help and support that we already provide to them needs to be boosted.

‘We have, therefore, created a fund to alleviate the worries that independent retailers are experiencing as footfall in their shops drop and as their bills mount.’

The NFRN has been contacted about deaths among shopkeepers.

From newsagents to food outlets: Other shop workers who have died from coronavirus

Among other shopworkers in the UK who have died from coronavirus are the  following:

Newsagent Himanshu Patel tested positive for coronavirus and died in hospital on Wednesday, April 15.

Mr Patel, 51, ran Kay’s Newsagent in St Albans Road, Watford, Herts, for ten years. The father of twin boys was taken to hospital on Easter Monday but died just days later.

He was a member of the Federation of Independent Retailers’ London district and Watford branch, having signed up to the organisation when he joined the newsagents.

Watford president Raju Patel said on Wednesday: ‘It is desperately sad. I only spoke to him five days ago to see how he was getting on. He was such a lively, bubbly man.’

Krishnasamy Chiyamalan was the owner of Templeton News in in Dartford, and died at home on April 4 – just days after saying he felt better and planned to reopen.

Mother-of-three Undeg Lewis (above), 59, died after the disease took her in just 36 hours. The shop worker passed away in hospital after falling ill at home in the tiny Carmarthenshire village of Efailwen, which has a population of just 70

The 41-year-old leaves wife Gopika – who had been nursing him at home – and two children aged three and seven months.

His brother Thiviyan said Krishnasamy was ill for seven days before he died, during which he kept the store closed but had recently said he felt better.

Mr Chiyamalan moved to the UK from Sri Lanka in 2002 and lived in north London before making the move to Kent.

Mother-of-three Undeg Lewis, 59, died after the disease took her in just 36 hours. The shop worker passed away in hospital after falling ill at home in the tiny Carmarthenshire village of Efailwen, which has a population of just 70.

Her son Rhodri said his mother developed a cough which led to her feeling ‘drained’ and having breathing difficulties.

Another shopkeeper died at the same hospital where he had previously delivered supplies.

Meanwhile, Raj Aggarwal’s last Facebook post showed him dropping off a carload of tea, coffee and biscuits to NHS workers at Glenfield Hospital in Leicester.

But just 13 days later, the father-of-two, 51, who ran two Spar shops and a coffee outlet with his brother Sanjiv, 50, lost his life.

On March 27 he posted on Facebook: ‘Next stop Glenfield Hospital, Leicester, dropping off Tea, Coffee and Biscuits for our frontline NHS staff who are doing an amazing job #strongertogether.’

And a fortnight ago, Adeola Onasanya also died from the condition after apparently running Deola Food Store in North Street, Milton Regis, near Sittingbourne, Kent.

Flowers were left outside the store while relatives paid tribute to the hardworking shop worker. In a Facebook message posted on behalf of Mr Onasanya’s cousin, Kola Ka Adesina, he says the virus is hitting home ‘closer and harder’.

It reads: ‘I am crying, shouting and bawling. I just lost my cousin Adeola Onasanya of Deola foods in Sittingbourne to this dreadful disease. Going to miss you Dee RIP.’

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