COVID travel ban: UK Sikhs feed stranded truck drivers

Thousands of Europe-bound trucks are held up in southeastern England amid fears over a new COVID strain.

A driver walks next to trucks parked on the M20 motorway towards the Eurotunnel and the Port of Dover, as EU countries impose a travel ban on the UK following the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, on December 21, 2020 [Toby Melville/Reuters]

British Sikhs have delivered chickpea curries and pasta meals for free to hundreds of France-bound truck drivers stranded in the United Kingdom, a widely praised gesture that is rooted in tradition.

Much of Europe, including France, this week banned travellers and freight from the UK after the discovery of a new, more transmissible variant of COVID-19 that is tearing through London and the southeastern county of Kent.

On Tuesday, UK officials said there were 632 trucks stacked up on the M20 motorway in Kent as part of an emergency operation using parts of the motorway to queue trucks travelling towards Europe. There were also 2,188 at the nearby Manston Airport, which is now being used as a giant parking zone.

Responding to the crisis, meanwhile, Sikh groups rallied together to provide hundreds of free meals for the drivers affected.

In Sikh culture, the langar, or community kitchen, is offered by temples, and gives out free meals to people regardless of their faith or background.

Working in tandem, the Sikh community at the Guru Nanak Darbar temple in Gravesend, Kent, and NGO Khalsa Aid delivered some 500 chickpea curries and 300 mushroom and pasta dishes late on Tuesday.

Their efforts won praise on social media, with Twitter users lauding the groups’ “kindness” and “humanity”.

“Whilst some say ‘so what, they are mostly EU drivers anyway’, proper Brits get out and help those in need. Thank you to all who have come to the aid of stranded truckers, you are the best of Britain,” Andy Conway Morris wrote.

Anas Sarwar, a member of the Scottish Parliament, added: “This is kindness. This is humanity. This is Britain.”

Others thanked the Sikh volunteers for the “immeasurable kindness” shown and complimented those who participated as “kind-hearted souls”.

Khalsa Aid said it would resume its charitable work along the M20 on Wednesday.

France has committed to partially lifting the travel ban on Wednesday.

Industry body the Road Haulage Association had raised concerns about the drivers’ welfare, with access to food and water in particularly short supply for those stuck in the snaking queues on the M20, the motorway that will eventually take them to the port of Dover and onwards to France.

Source: Al Jazeera