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NHS worker: Why I tell people to mask up

Man who hands out virus gear at tube stations fears important Covid-19 information is not getting through

13 November, 2020 — By Calum Fraser

Oliur Rahman tours tube stations giving out masks

AN NHS worker says he started giving out masks to people outside tube stations because he had seen the devastation that the coronavirus pandemic can cause first hand.

Oliur Rahman, who lives just off Caledonian Road, has given out hundreds of masks and gloves to members of the public since the outbreak began.

He said he was worried about how the virus was disproportionately affecting black and ethnic minority communities and wanted to help get clear information about how people could protect themselves.

Mr Rahman, 44, who works in the security department at Charing Cross Hospital, told the Tribune: “I have seen many people struggling and suffering in hospital, so I thought I better help.

“I also wanted to help the Bame community with any language issues or concerns they have.”

Mr Rahman started handing out the masks and gloves in April when he was buying them at £30 a box.

He would hang around outside supermarkets and Underground stations.

He is now approach­ing parents who congregate outside schools during pick-up and drop-off times, offering to help.

The father-of-two said: “There seems to be simple things we can do that will stop the spread of the virus and I want to encourage as many people to do that as I can.

“A lot of the time people just haven’t got the infor­mation, especially when I speak to friends who do not speak a lot of English.”

A report by Public Health England found that, up to August, more than a third of critically ill patients in hospital in the UK were from ethnic minority backgrounds.

A number of factors were raised including several generations of families living under the same roof.

“I have lost friends to this virus,” Mr Rahman said. “I have met many Bangladeshi families to give advice and support. I felt the biggest issues were the lack of knowledge, language barriers and overcrowded homes.”

Islington Council’s community safety chief Labour councillor Sue Lukes said: “Over the last fortnight we met people from Bangladeshi, Somali and Arabic-speaking communities in Islington to discuss the health risks their communities face and understand how we can help ensure important information about Covid reaches their communities.”

Cllr Lukes added: “We found that people are confused by and distrustful of much of what they see and hear from government, and may be getting misinformation from all sorts of channels.

“So we are working with the people they trust, like Mr Rahman, to promote messages about how everyone can keep safe, get tested and look after their health.”

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