Morocco’s King warns battle against COVID-19 not won yet

King Mohammed VI criticises scores of Moroccans who do not respect preventive sanitary measures, warns Morocco could return to lockdown if upward trend of coronavirus infections continues.

RABAT - Morocco’s King Mohammed VI warned on Thursday that his country had not yet won the battle against the novel coronavirus pandemic, blaming some Moroccans for not taking their sanitary precautions and social distancing seriously.

“Unfortunately, we have found that, by the conjunction of several factors, the lifting of the lockdown has been accompanied by an exceptional increase in infection cases,” said the Moroccan monarch In a speech aired on television to mark the 67th anniversary of the Revolution of the King and the People.

“Some (Moroccans) have confused the lifting of the lockdown with the end of the disease, while others have displayed an inadmissible let-go and laxity. Some even deny the existence of the pandemic,” he warned.

The monarch criticised scores of Moroccans who did not respect the preventive sanitary measures adopted by public authorities.

“The reality is that a large segment of the population does not respect the preventive sanitary measures adopted by the public authorities, such as wearing masks, observing the rules of social distancing, and using hygiene and disinfection products,” said the king.

The government announced the decision to make the wearing of face masks in public mandatory on April 6 as part of several measures to contain the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Those caught without wearing the mask could face prison sentences of up to three months and a fine ranging from $29 to $126, or one of these two penalties.

“Anyone who violates this provision is liable to the penalties provided for in Article 4 of Decree-Law No. 2.20.292, which provides for a prison sentence of one to three months and a fine varying between 300 and 1,300 dirhams, or one of the two penalties without prejudice to the most severe criminal penalty,” said the Interior Ministry in a statement published July 25.

King Mohammed VI slammed people’s “irrational attitudes that are devoid of good citizenship” and “reflect a lack of solidarity.”

He warned that these attitudes reversed the State’s efforts in providing support to many families left without means of subsistence.

“This support cannot continue indefinitely, because the aid granted by the State exceeds its resources,” said the monarch.

On March 15, King Mohammed VI set up a Special Fund for the Management and Response to the COVID-19 pandemic, including the compensation of furloughed people and those in need.

The Fund has reached MAD 33.7 billion ($3.6 billion), MAD 24.7 billion of which ($2.6 billion) has been spent, according to the General Treasury of the Kingdom.

The monarch highlighted the disappointing spike of the number of infections after the easing of the lockdown despite the deployment of preventive measures to preserve the safety of citizens and curb the spread of the pandemic.

Morocco has witnessed in the last four weeks a huge rise in the number of infections, which pushed authorities to re-impose lockdown measures in several cities across the country.

“The day after the lockdown was lifted, the number of confirmed cases, that of serious cases and that of deaths increased, in a short time, more than three times, compared to the period of confinement,” said the king.

“Likewise, the number of infections among healthcare workers has increased from 1 daily during the lockdown period to 10 cases recently,” he said.

“If this upward trend continues, the Scientific Commission responsible for monitoring the evolution of COVID-19 could recommend a return to the lockdown, or even a tightening of sanitary measures,” he added.

The Moroccan government tightened on Thursday preventive measures in major cities including Casablanca, Marrakech and Beni Mellal.

It decided to close beaches, public baths and beauty salons, and fortify the closure of many districts, streets and venues in the economic hub of Casablanca.

Cafes, restaurants, stores and shopping centres will be closed at 8 p.m local time and street markets at 4 p.m. The broadcasting of football matches in cafes is also banned.

Morocco recorded Thursday 1,325 new COVID-19 cases and 32 deaths in the last 24 hours, bringing to total number of infections since to 47,638 and the death toll to 775.