Morocco tightens restrictions on COVID-19 amid exponential spike in infections

The Kingdom extends the curfew and cordons off the cities with the highest incidence. Authorities expect the peak to be reached "in the next few days"
A woman walks through an empty street during a New Year's Eve curfew imposed to prevent gatherings and the spread of the coronavirus in Rabat, Morocco

PHOTO/AP  -   A woman walks through an empty street during a New Year's Eve curfew imposed to prevent gatherings and the spread of the coronavirus in Rabat, Morocco

The health crisis never seems to end. As the vaccination campaigns against HIV/AIDS-19 progressed, countries gradually decided to lift the battery of restrictions, draconian in some cases, put in place to combat the virus. However, despite the proven efficacy of vaccines, the world is slowly moving towards a new wave, itself marked by the Delta variant and the relentless increase in mobility.

Morocco has been hit by an unprecedented spike over the past three weeks. The Alawi kingdom imposed new restrictions on Monday in response to the exponential increase in the number of cases and deaths in an attempt to curb the incidence of the disease. Health authorities have counted a total of 8,760 new cases and 64 deaths in the last 24 hours, figures that place Morocco as the African country worst hit by the pandemic, behind only South Africa.

Saad Eddine El Othmani, primer ministro de Marruecos
PHOTO/ UNTV vía AP - Saad Eddine El Othmani, prime minister of Morocco

Moroccan Prime Minister Saadeddine Othmani announced the extension of the night-time curfew from 11pm to 9pm. The curfew, originally set to end at 4.30am, will be reinstated at 5am. The new package of measures also prohibits entry and exit from Casablanca, Marrakech and Agadir, cities with the worst epidemiological situation in the country, except for those who have received the full course of the vaccine and have a medical certificate to prove it.

Among those exempted are also "persons with urgent medical conditions, persons in charge of transporting goods and merchandise, as well as public and private sector workers with a health order", i.e. a report issued by their employer. The authorities have also set the closure of bars and restaurants at 9 p.m.; and hotels and tourist sites must reduce their maximum capacity to 75 per cent.

vacunación marruecos
AFP/ FADEL SENNA - An elderly Moroccan woman receives a dose of COVID-19 vaccine at an inoculation centre in Sale on 29 January 2021

The new measures came into force on Tuesday, and are in addition to the restrictions previously in place. The ban on weddings and parties and the 50% capacity limit on public transport remain in place, but the ineffectiveness of the restrictions has forced the authorities to tighten their strategy to curb COVID-19. Since the start of the pandemic, Morocco has recorded more than 643,000 infections and a total of 9,949 deaths, but it is now at the height of the country's most delicate situation. 

The head of the infectious diseases division, Abdelkrim Meziane Bellefquih, presented on Tuesday a report compiled by the health authorities with data related to the virus. According to Bellefquih, the country is "in a progressive phase of the epidemiological curve that could reach its peak in the coming days". For the moment, the slope continues to rise with no sign of slowing down, although the authorities expect to reach the critical point soon and then begin to decline and stabilise.

vacunación marruecos
REUTERS/SHEREEN TALAATA - People wait to receive the COVID-19 vaccine, during a national coronavirus vaccination campaign, in Sale, Morocco 29 January 2021

Bellefquih revealed a 22% increase in the number of intubated patients, but the status of hospitals has not been released. The head of pandemic control in the Kingdom also reported a 75% increase in the number of deaths and urged Moroccans to comply with the restrictions "to protect health". 

While Morocco is recording the worst figures of the pandemic, the vaccination campaign is proceeding apace. The country is the continent's leader in this area. The authorities have administered nearly 25 million doses since January, and more than 10 million Moroccans have completed the vaccination schedule. In this regard, the Kingdom is keeping vaccination centres open until 8 p.m. and has extended immunisation to those over 25 years of age. Local media report that those over 18 will soon be called up.

vacuna china marruecos
PHOTO/REUTERS - Company logo of Sinopharm Group Co Ltd

In the last week, Morocco has received new batches of Jansen and Sinopharm. In addition, the country will produce 5 million doses of the Chinese vaccine on Moroccan soil, through the pharmaceutical company Sothema. In this way, the Kingdom is seeking to shield itself against a viral storm that has been raging in the region, and especially in Morocco, for the past few weeks.