Morocco reports record rise in daily COVID-19 cases

Number of confirmed COVID-19 cases has increased by 5,745 to 235,310 with record 82 deaths one day after Prime Minister warned Morocco could return to nationwide lockdown if rapid surge of pandemic were uncontrollable.

RABAT - Morocco's daily new coronavirus infections hit a record high on Thursday as Prime Minister Saad Dine El Otmani warned that North African kingdom could return to a nationwide lockdown if the rapid surge of the pandemic were uncontrollable.

The number of confirmed coronavirus cases increased by 5,745 to 235,310 with record 82 deaths, announced the health ministry on Thursday.

Some 2059 cases were registered in the economic capital city despite being under lockdown since September 7.

The occupancy rate of the COVID-19 intensive care units (ICU) has reached 55%, not far from the critical threshold of 65%, Dr. Abdelilah Boutaleb, Secretary General of the health ministry, revealed on October 26.

Professor Moulay Hicham Afif, director general of Casablanca’s University Hospital Centres (CHUs) warned that the ICU occupancy rate had reached a staggering 90% at the CHUs.

Otmani did not exclude the possibility of returning to full lockdown to curb the fast spread of the pandemic.

"None of us, officials or citizens, wants to return to full lockdown, in view of its social, economic and psychological repercussions, but it remains a possible option if the epidemiological situation ever gets out of hand," warned Otmani on Tuesday.

Interior minister Abdelouafi Laftit expressed Wednesday his concern about the worsening situation in a meeting with the members of the Committee of the interior and of local communities.

“We have two solutions: find the vaccine or have people take the necessary precautions,” said Laftit.

“Unfortunately, it must be said, people don't want to help us. Let's not lie to us, today in Casablanca people don't want to help us. In the oriental region and in other cities, the people don’t want to help us. But it is the case in all countries, because people are tired. I am not looking for justifications, I am describing a situation," he added.

Health minister Khalid Ait Taleb announced the imminent arrival of a COVID-19 vaccine in December in an address to parliament.

“All the available information we have tells us that a promising vaccine is expected towards the end of 2020 after reaching advanced stages of development," Ait Taleb told lawmakers.

“It is a vaccine ordered from the Chinese laboratory Sinopharm, of which Morocco will receive a batch of 10 million doses,” he added.

Bahrain has granted emergency approval for the use of the Chinese COVID-19 vaccine candidate currently in phase III trials on frontline workers from Tuesday.

The vaccine candidate, nearing the end of phase III trials in the United Arab Emirates, Egypt, Bahrain and Jordan, is a partnership between Sinopharm's China National Biotec Group (CNBG) and Abu Dhabi-based artificial intelligence and cloud computing company Group 42 (G42).

The UAE in September authorised similar emergency use of the same vaccine for frontline workers at high risk of infection with the new coronavirus.