Morocco adds Spain, France and Portugal to 'B' list of countries with worst pandemic management

Rabat imposes a ten-day quarantine on travellers from these three countries according to the latest COVID-19 data
Un policía revisa el pasaporte de un viajero en el aeropuerto internacional Mohammed V en Casablanca PHOTO/AP

PHOTO/AP  -   A policeman checks a traveller's passport at Mohammed V International Airport in Casablanca

Morocco has included Spain, France and Portugal on Monday on the list of "high risk areas" because of the COVID-19 situation, according to the Moroccan Ministry of Foreign Affairs. As a result, visitors arriving in the country without having received the full guideline as of 13 July will have to observe a 10-day quarantine.

All travellers from these three countries will also have to present a negative PCR carried out 48 hours before entering Morocco and obtain an exceptional authorisation to travel. Visitors will also be tested again on the ninth day in order to be able to leave the isolation protocol. 

Those who have received both doses will only need to present a vaccination certificate and the corresponding test, leaving the quarantine period behind. Children under 11 years of age are exempt from the PCR stipulated for all other age groups.

Pasajeros suben a un vuelo de Royal Air Maroc, en el aeropuerto de Burdeos AFP/MEHDI FEDOUACH
AFP/MEHDI FEDOUACH-Passengers board a Royal Air Maroc flight at Bordeaux airport.

Until now, the triad had been part of the 'A' list, a list of countries that keep the incidence of the virus under control and register positive indicators, "in particular with the spread of variants", according to the criteria established by the Moroccan authorities based on WHO recommendations. 

However, the three have been the only ones to be relegated from the first to the second list, known as the 'B' list. This in turn is made up of those countries with the worst management of the pandemic or which present "a dispersion of variants or the absence of precise statistics", according to the Moroccan Ministry of Health.

In addition to its immediate neighbours, Spain shares the list with an extensive list of 78 countries, including Algeria, Egypt, the United Arab Emirates, Iran, Iraq, Syria and Yemen.

Ferry en Marruecos PHOTO/AFP
PHOTO/AFP-Ferry in Morocco

The exponential increase in contagions in the three countries, mostly among the young population, has served as a justification for Rabat to take the measure.

For the second consecutive year, Morocco suspended the Crossing the Straits operation from Spanish ports, citing epidemiological reasons. Although the Kingdom activated the French and Italian ports of Sète and Genoa to facilitate the so-called Marhaba operation, that is, the return of Moroccan citizens resident in the old continent.

The decision, framed within the friction between Rabat and Madrid over the hospital reception of the Polisario Front leader in Logroño without the knowledge of the Moroccan authorities, had a strong impact on the national hotel and tourism sector, focused on the south of the peninsula, which depends on the flow of travellers crossing the Strait of Gibraltar during the summer period.

Brahim Ghali, secretario general del Polisario y presidente de la autoproclamada República Árabe Saharaui Democrática AFP/ RYAD KRAMDI
AFP/ RYAD KRAMDI-Brahim Ghali, secretary general of the Polisario and president of the self-proclaimed Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic

The reasons given by Morocco are related to the health security protocol. For Rabat, vessels carrying visitors must be equipped with special equipment, and they consider that it is not feasible to equip ships with laboratories on short journeys, such as those coming from Spain.

The Spanish ports affected by the measure include Algeciras, Tarifa, Motril, Malaga, Almeria and Ceuta. Although this decision has also been detrimental to Moroccan citizens who regularly travel to Morocco via Spain, as they have to look for alternative routes, which are generally more expensive despite Mohammed VI's announcements of lower prices.

Recently, the Moroccan Ministry of Equipment, Transport and Logistics announced the opening of the maritime line linking Tangiers and Portimão. The Portuguese port thus joined its counterparts in Sète and Genoa, and became the best option for the Moroccan population who used to cross through southern Spain. 

However, the Moroccan authorities decided to cancel the transit of visitors last week in view of the increase in contagions in Portugal. Before the cancellation, the route would not have been operational either.

In any case, those who choose to return to Morocco in the coming months by sea will have to present a negative PCR test at embarkation and undergo a second test on board to "guarantee maximum health security for them and their families".

el rey de Marruecos, Mohammed VI, a la derecha, recibe la vacuna COVID-19  PHOTO/PALACIO REAL DE MARRUECOS via AP
PHOTO/Royal Palace of Morocco via AP-Moroccan King Mohammed VI, right, receives the COVID-19 vaccine.
Coronavirus in Morocco

Since the start of the pandemic, the Alawi kingdom has recorded more than 542,000 cases, 1,057 of them in the last 24 hours. In turn, 9,369 Moroccans have died, nine of them yesterday. In addition, the detection of the Delta variant in several parts of the country is of concern to health authorities.

Rabat launched a massive vaccination campaign in January to immunise 80% of its more than 36 million inhabitants. To date, 19.6 million doses have been administered and more than 9 million citizens have been fully vaccinated. The share of immunised citizens has therefore reached 25% with the Sinopharm and AstraZeneca vaccines.

In this context, the Moroccan pharmaceutical company Sothema agreed last week to produce 5 million doses of the COVID-19 vaccine in Morocco in the "short term" with the Asian giant Sinopharm, at an event presided over by King Mohamed VI.

The monarch's plans are to "promote the Kingdom's self-sufficiency and turn Morocco into a major biotechnology platform on the African continent and in the world in the field of industry," MAP news agency reported.

The agreement establishes the Alawi kingdom as a leader in the fight against the pandemic in Africa. Morocco is the country with the most doses inoculated and the first to produce vaccines on the continent. Meanwhile, the North African country continues to armour itself against COVID-19.