Morocco to gradually reopen borders

North African kingdom will reopen its air and maritime borders from July 14 to only Moroccan citizens and expatriates living in Morocco.

CASABLANCA — Morocco announced Wednesday that it would gradually reopen its air and maritime borders next week four months after closing them to contain the spread of the novel coronavirus pandemic.

Thousands of Moroccans, who have been stranded abroad as a result of the lockdown, welcomed the news with joy as they will finally join their loved ones.

Only Moroccan citizens and expatriates living in Morocco will be allowed to travel in the first stage of the reopening from July 14, according to a government statement published on Wednesday.

National airlines will schedule as many flights as necessary to return Moroccans living abroad and expatriates living in Morocco.

Passengers are required to present both a PCR virus test taken within less than 48 hours of the flight and an antibody test before boarding the planes, said the statement.

Ferries will be allowed to resume serving Moroccan ports exclusively from the French port Sete and Italian port Genoa. Tests will also be required for ferry passengers.

Morocco closed its air and maritime borders on March 15 as part of its strict lockdown measures to stem the spread of the COVID-19.

Moroccan authorities have started repatriating the citizens from abroad in the last few weeks on the government’s expenses.

Mohammed Koutit, who had been trapped in Paris since March 10, had been repatriated by the government and confined in a five-star hotel in Marrakech since July 1.

“I did the first test upon our arrival at Kenzi Hotel and was negative. The second test was carried out yesterday. Once it is negative, they might set us free tomorrow,” Koutit told Middle East Online.

“I thank our authorities for repatriating us and providing us with a temporary accommodation for quarantine, all free of charge,” said Koutit.

Morocco has so far recorded over 15,000 COVID-19 cases amid a significant surge within factories across the country.

Moroccan authorities put Sunday the coastal city of Safi under lockdown after hundreds of infections emerged in a fish conservation factory.