Morocco warns against sharing fake coronavirus information

Interior ministry vows to deal firmly with false and misleading allegations on social media that have spread fear among Moroccans as government takes more measures to deal with coronavirus outbreak.

CASABLANCA - Fear and panic have gripped Moroccans in the last few days because the amount of audio and picture messages and fake information that have been shared on social media and phone apps regarding the new coronavirus outbreak, prompting the interior ministry to issue a strong warning.

The interior ministry slammed the baseless allegations and vowed to deal firmly with those who are seeking to undermine Morocco’s territorial security.

“The information contained in the audio recordings circulating since Friday on social networks and instant messaging applications about the spread of the new coronavirus and the quarantine of certain areas of the national territory are without any foundation,” said the ministry.

It called on all citizens to ensure the veracity of the information circulating and collect them from reliable official sources and not give credit to false and misleading allegations.

It warned that the production and dissemination of false information, which endangers the security of citizens, was punishable by law.

Moroccans rushed to supermarkets to stock up on food after fake news circulated on WhatsApp that Moroccan authorities will impose China-style lockdown to slow down the spread of the coronavirus in Casablanca.

Pasta, flour and salt shelves have been emptied despite assurances from the government and supermarkets that the food supply chain can meet the unprecedented stockpiling brought on by the coronavirus pandemic.

The ministry of trade and industry said that there were enough stocks of the most consumed products to meet Moroccan’s unprecedented demands.

“The supplies will also be sufficient during the month of Ramadan, which is characterized by a high level of consumption,” the ministry said.

Minister of trade and industry Moulay Hafid Elalamy said that “we will crack down when there is speculation” following the price rise of cereals and grain legumes.

The situation has dramatically changed in the last four days after Morocco decided to close schools and universities, cancel sporting and cultural events, ban public gatherings of more than 50 people and shut down its airspace in a bid to curb the spread of the deadly flu-like virus.

It also announced Monday the closure of mosques, cafes, restaurants, cinemas, theatres, party halls, clubs and gyms, public baths, indoor sports centres and proximity sports courts until further notice.

Markets, food shops and supermarkets as well as restaurants that provide home delivery services will remain open.

Aware of the country’s limited health care resources to fight the pandemic, Moroccans backed by famous artists have taken to social media to urges others to stay at home for two weeks to help contain the spread of the coronavirus.

On Twitter Facebook, the hashtag #خليك_فالدار (Stay at home) was trending as 29 cases tested positive for COVID-19, including one death and one recovery.

Morocco announced the creation of a 10 billion dirham ($1 billion) fund to upgrade health infrastructure and help vulnerable economic sectors in the wake of the new coronavirus outbreak, the Royal Cabinet said on Sunday.

The fund will help acquire the necessary health equipment and assist vulnerable sectors such as tourism as well as help maintain jobs and mitigate the social repercussions of the pandemic, the Royal Cabinet said in a statement.