Barcelona: When Sheraz Syed returns home from his working day, he cannot hug his three children or his wife, because of the coronavirus. Being a taxi driver these days is a high-risk job. But on top of his regular work, along with 195 Pakistanis in Barcelona, he provides free rides to healthcare staff in the city.
The initiative started at the beginning of Spain’s lockdown, in mid-March, as six Pakistani taxi drivers led by Shahbaz Ahmed discussed how medical workers would be able to return at night to their homes. Since then, their effort has expanded to about 200 volunteers, including some drivers from other nationalities.
They started by sharing their contact details with hospitals and organised their schedules to cover the city centre and more remote facilities, such as the Can Ruti Hospital. “Medical staff work too many hours and we saw that they were going to their jobs using public transport,” said Asim Gondal, a driver volunteering his services.
“For this reason, as they are working on the frontline for humanity, we began this service also to save them more time and, in this way, they don’t spend it on public transport.” Gondal and his family have lived in Barcelona for about 20 years and Spain, he said, a country he now considers home.
“This is a difficult time for Spain,” he said.About 43,000 Pakistanis live in Barcelona, and almost 89,000 in Spain overall, according to the Spanish Statistical Office. The drivers follow preventive measures: they wear masks, gloves and have disinfectant gel in their cars.
None of the people in the group have the virus, but there have been previous cases of Pakistani taxi drivers with COVID-19. Five are reported to be recovering in hospital.