Morocco set to further ease coronavirus lockdown

Government is expected to further ease lockdown measures in Morocco from Wednesday while extending public health state of emergency.

CASABLANCA – Morocco’s government was expected to further ease lockdown measures in the North African country from Wednesday while extending the public health state of emergency, according to informed sources at the interior ministry.

A circular was also sent to that effect on Saturday by the Interior Ministry to the walis and governors. Still according to our sources, this document notably includes directives to "lighten" confinement and facilitate movement within the urban perimeter. Thus, the exceptional travel authorization may no longer be compulsory within cities, while the authorities' document will be maintained for journeys between cities and regions.

Interior minister Abdelouafi Laftit sent Saturday a note to the walis and governors that included directives to “ease” the lockdown and movement within cities.

The exceptional travel permit may no longer be compulsory within cities, but will be kept for travelling between cities and regions, said the note.

The authorities will be on patrol from next Thursday to detect any violation of the public state of health emergency such as crowds, crowds in markets, football matches in neighbourhoods and other things that are likely to exacerbate new coronavirus hotbeds, it added.

Prime Minister Saad Dine El Otmani is expected in parliament on Thursday to present the government's strategy for lifting the lockdown.

Morocco has been on a lockdown since March 20 and extended it twice until June 10 in order to curb the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Laftit warned that the risk of coronavirus outbreak “still exists” during the plenary session at the House of Councillors on his ministry’s post-lockdown measures to fight the pandemic.

He said that the decision to lift the lockdown will be taken following a very careful assessment of the epidemiological situation by health authorities.

“The success of the measures taken by Moroccan authorities has disturbed some of the bodies that followed an opportunistic approach aimed at underestimating the efforts made and promoting nihilistic rhetoric to spread frustration,” said laftit.

The almost three-month lockdown has taken its toll on the country’s economy and Moroccans’ mental health.

“Significant progress has been made in controlling the virus, but major negative challenges imposed by the new economic and social situations must be faced,” said laftit.

There have already been some steps to revive the economy including a return to work for private companies and reopening of restaurants and cafes for takeaways only on May 29.

The health ministry announced on Monday said the country's death toll had risen to 208 while the number of new cases was 26, bringing the total to 8,250 while 7,370 patients were completely cured.